Monthly Archives: June 2010

Playing Whatever the Weather

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the times we don’t let kids play outside.  Most schools here in Australia have a wet weather policy, and children stay inside during rainy lunch times.  At home I can, and do, let my kids play in the rain as you will know if you’ve read a few posts!  In some areas schools also have hot weather policies.  I remember when I was a child that if the temperature went over a certain point schools allowed kids to run through the sprinklers on the oval!  Sadly this is no longer common practice, due to stricter rules in schools and water restrictions in some states.

This week though, it’s cold weather I’m thinking about.  We are in mid-winter, and though skies are big and blue, the temperature does drop in the mornings and evenings.  In the past I have kept the kids inside until the day warms up, then let them out to play.  But lately I have been questioning myself – thanks mostly to reading blogs about early childhood programs in really cold parts of the world.  (You have to jump over and read this post at Living in the Land of Chocolate, and you might also want to check out Active Kids Club.)

I don’t think we can expect children to tolerate extremes of temperature they are not accustomed to, but I do think they should be able to enjoy outside time in their home climate.  For my kids, temperatures range from about 10 degrees celsius in winter, through to around 35 degrees in summer.  When it rains it really rains, and we often get afternoon thunderstorms in summer.  Winter play means wearing lots of layers.  The days start chilly, but do warm up and beanies need to be replaced with sunhats.  What it doesn’t mean is staying inside with the heater on.  Summer play means sunscreen, hats and sun-safe clothing.  It also means drinking plenty of water, and playing out of the sun during the hottest times.  What it doesn’t mean is staying inside with the airconditioning on!  Ok, yes there are days when I use the heater in winter, and the air con in summer – but we don’t stay trapped inside and I always find the kids have more fun outside.

So this morning, I’m blogging outside while my kids play and the three of us are rugged up in beanies, skivvies, jumpers and boots.  There’s hardly a cloud in the enormous blue sky and I am reminded that in some parts of the world this is summer!  Time to put the kettle on, make us all a nice warm drink to wrap our cold fingers around, and enjoy it under the trees together.

Big Boy Bed

As I write this post I have two sleeping kids – in their BEDS.  We dismantled the cot today, and my not-so-baby-boy is fast asleep in his big boy bed.  So far so good.  The only sound I’ve heard is snoring!

We talked a lot about the transition, so he was very well prepared for the move and very excited about it all.  He loves his new jungle quilt and striped sheets, he loves climbing up and down himself, and he just loved introducing his much loved bear to their new abode!  The first thing they did was lie down on the big new pillow together and pretend to sleep, then shout “Wake up!” and do it all over again.  Too cute.

To help with a smooth transition we also kept routine as normal as possible.  The bathtime-teethtime-storytime-prayertime-cuddletime-sleeptime routine is well established for both kids.  So tonight, everything was the same as normal, except that we had stories together on his new bed.

I was hoping we might be able to ditch the dummy with the cot.  I did give it a try but conceded defeat, as in all honesty it’s another familiarity which will aid the transition.  I guess he’ll give the dummy up when he’s ready.  Right??

I must admit I had a little sentimental moment today.  As we packed the cot away I realised that we are probably through the “baby phase” and are onto a new stage as a family.  I’m not sad really.  I love seeing my kids grow and change and embrace new things.  It’s just that they grow so fast.

I think I’ll go and check him one more time before I turn in myself.  It’s funny how he seems such a big boy in his bed, yet at the same time still so very little with all those covers around him!

Animal Evidence

Even though we haven’t seen him,

my kids KNOW there is a possum in this tree in our backyard.

We haven’t seen the possum

but we have seen his scratches up and down the tree.

We haven’t seen the possum

but we have found droppings (scat) on the ground beneath the tree.

We haven’t see the possum

but we have heard him thumping across our corrugated iron roof.

And from the evidence we’ve collected

we think the possum will look like this:

{source}

Sometimes the evidence of an animal is easier to find than the animal itself!  This is especially true in our case as the common brushtail is not only nocturnal (awake at night) but also largely arboreal (tree dwelling).  In summer the possums often come right down onto our front verandah and the kids will get to see them as the weather warms up.  For now though, the evidence is probably all they’ll find.

The kids enjoyed solving this animal mystery, and I got to ask lots of lovely open ended questions like:

  • what do you think this is?
  • who might have made it?
  • how do you think this happened?
  • what kind of animal has been here?
  • how big do you think the animal is?
  • where do you think the animal is now?

What evidence of animals can you find with your children around your own home, even if you can’t find the animal itself?  Many animals leave great clues… trails, droppings, feathers, tracks, casings, cocoons, nests, food scraps and more.  Don’t forget to use other senses too apart from sight.  Can you hear any clues?  (Some birds are easy to hear, but incredibly hard to spot.)  Can you smell any clues?!  (You can often smell when there is a koala around!)

Help your kids to get hunting, and encourage their exploration and investigation with lots of great questioning.

Toying With Cameras

We decided to get Little Miss 4 a camera for her recent birthday.  We researched toy cameras, but were disappointed with the range available.  We figured there was no point getting her a camera that produced poor quality images, even if it was pink and sparkly or “drop” friendly.  The whole idea is to be able to capture photos after all.  So, we instead decided to give our most recently shelved camera a new lease of life.  We specially ordered in new batteries, purchased a funky pink case and lanyard, and of course a photo album and cute frame.

As expected, she is absolutely loving it.  Here are some things she has been learning about while playing with her camera both indoors and out:

1.  Keep the lanyard around your neck.

2.  Smile, whether you’re in front or behind the camera.

3.  Keep your fingers away from the lens.

4.  Sometimes you need to try a different position to get the shot you want.

5.  Things look different up close.

6. Creative shots take time and thought.

7.  Keep your hands steady.

8.  Little brothers don’t stay still for long!

Sibling Love

I grew up with one sister.  There were times during our childhood when we were close, and I have many fond memories.  But, there were also times when sibling rivalry put us on opposing teams.  Of course, we both grew up eventually, and these days my sister is one of my closest friends.  She’s a fabulous aunty and I’m so blessed to have her in my life.  (Sis if you’re reading this stop sniffling…)

I would dearly love for my children to be friends when they grow up.  I would love them to be there for each other.  I would love them to have each other’s number on speed dial!  My question is… what can I do as a mother to foster a healthy relationship between them? And I’m also wondering, is sibling rivalry just par for the course, or can it be avoided?

I pounce on those special moments when I see one child being especially kind or thoughtful to the other.  My son, thought not yet even 2, is so generous and kind hearted.  If he gets his own drinkbottle, he’ll get his sister’s too and take it over to her.  He’ll even share his favourite foods with her!  And my big girl is learning to be so encouraging with her words when she sees her brother successfully attempting something. Those moments are worth taking the time to praise because they are about building character.

In some ways I think competition is inevitable, and it isn’t necessarily bad.  Rather than trying to avoid competitiveness between my kids, I am instead training them in how to deal with it.  For example, there is a simple spotting game we play in the car.  Using that simple game (which both kids are good at!) I have the opportunity to model winning and losing behaviour.  When we win, we don’t boast about it.  When we lose, we don’t let it get us down and we are really happy for the person who won.

I’d love to hear from you on this one.  Are you friends with your adult siblings?  What do you do in your home with your own children to promote sibling love, rather than sibling rivalry?  If you have older kids I’d especially love your thoughts on what you have tried, and how successful it has been.

PS – if you happen to have a sister who is a great aunty to your kids, make sure you make some fuss of her on Savvy Auntie Day, 25th July.

Sparkle and Shine

Her face is a map of the world
Is a map of the world
You can see she’s a beautiful girl
She’s a beautiful girl
And everything around her is a silver pool of light
The people who surround her feel the benefit of it
It makes you calm
She holds you captivated in her palm

(KT Tunstall – Suddenly I See)

I couldn’t go past these shoes for my daughter.  The sturdy soles make them practical, and they are completely covered in silver sequins.  They were also the grand sum of $12, and you all know I like to shop on a budget.  You should see how they sparkle when my girl walks in the sunshine!  The sequins cast little sparkling reflections on the ground, and everything around her is a silver pool of light. She looks down and smiles, and her smile makes her face sparkle too.  And of course, my sparkly girl makes me smile too.

I could use a pair of shoes like that.  (Actually, I really would love a pair if they came in my size.)  We all need a little sparkle in our lives!  What makes you shine?  What makes you feel good about yourself?  What puts a spring in your step and a smile on your face?

Being a mum is hard work, and is often far from glamorous.  I think it’s important for each of us to find what helps us to shine.  It might something as simple as a pair of shoes, or it might be something deeper and more profound.  (Think I need both myself…)  When you find what makes you sparkle, you’ll not only feel better about yourself, but the people who surround you will feel the benefit of it.

Shine on.

How To Build A Creek Bed

I’ve blogged about plans for it, tweeted about it and teased with facebook updates on its progress.  And though it still isn’t quite finished, I think it’s time to show you what we’ve done with our dry creek bed!

We started by digging out the path for the creek to follow.  We worked with the natural slope of the land and chose a spot for our creek to tumble over the rock wall at the bottom.

We decided lining our dry creek with pond liner would help the creek to “run” in wet weather (and also prevent weeds from springing up through it).  The liner wasn’t cheap, but we think the kids will have more fun with it.  Once the liner was down it was time to start bringing in the rocks.  Did I mention we live on a steep hill?!  It took my husband quite some time to wheelbarrow up a ute load of rocks!!

Once rocks were in we could take a trip to the nursery to choose some native grasses.  We chose some established plants from a larger nursery, and smaller (cheaper!) tube stock from our local Greening Australia nursery.  The kids loved helping to decide which grasses would look best in our backyard.

Our final addition (for the moment) was a bridge to cross over!  I was content to plonk two sleepers across, but my wiser other half made a simple bridge which is much sturdier.  The kids love trip-trapping over the bridge, and jumping off it into the sandpit.

And here’s the whole yard as it is at the moment!!  We’d like to add some smaller rocks in a similar colour to completely cover the pond liner, and mulch up to the rocks.  We’ll add more plants gradually.  I’d also like to add another wider “bridge” right at the top of the hill with a small water tank on it.  I can just see the kids turning the tap on from the tank of their own rainwater to run down the creek!  We’re pretty proud of it so far though.

We roughly spent:

  • $130 pondliner
  • $100 rocks
  • $100 plants
  • $40 sleepers
  • $10 on snacks for hardworking Dad
  • Total = $380 :-)

(You can also check out the costings for another dry creek bed over at Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning).

We Play With Swings

My kids are right into swings at the moment.  You see, we have inherited an old A frame swing set.  Apparently it is doing the rounds of the neighbourhood and we are its third owners.  The children in the house behind us grew up, and passed the swing set onto the family beside us.  Now those children have outgrown swinging too, so the big blue A frame was passed up and over the tall wooden fence once again.  We only have a tiny patch of flat ground in front of the rock wall, and the swings take up the whole flat area, but the kids are delighted.

I loved watching my daughter take her knowledge of swings inside this week.  While her brother was napping I suggested she create something with a cereal box.  Look at what she came up with!  She did all the cutting herself, and punched the holes for the string.  I needed to tie the string on for her, and loop it over the curtain rod.

She was thrilled about pushing Buckingham (the teddy her Daddy bought for her while I was still pregnant with her… awww) but soon discovered a problem.  He fell out easily after one or two pushes.  I asked her how she would like to solve that problem, and she came up with a safety bar which you can see her attaching in the photo.

I love looking for opportunities to encourage independent problem solving through play.  I could have told her what we were going to make with the box.  I could have fixed the problem with the bear falling out.  I could have done a lot of things for her, but where would the learning be in that?

(PS – have you entered my Hi-5 Giveaway? Super easy to enter… 3 DVDs to be won!)


Hi-5 DVD Surprise

WINNERS Announced: Congratulations to Jen, Kalynda and Jackie who have each won a copy of Hi-5 Surprise! Please use the contact form to let me know your postal address.  Hope you and your kids enjoy it.

*     *     *

While I’m not a huge fan of Hi-5 myself, my daughter certainly is.  And I must confess that as I’m writing this post their catchy tunes are buzzing around in my head (lah-lah-lah-lah lah-lah lah-lah party at the….)

The Hi-5 Surprise DVD is a recording of their hugely popular national tour.  The whole gang has changed since last I sang along with “1-2-3-4…Hi-5!”  If you need an introduction to the new team in order to remain in-the-know, allow me to introduce you:

Though the team is new, the DVD is full of everything you’d expect from Hi-5.  The kid-pop songs are fast paced, catchy and fun.  Everything is brightly coloured, from the set to the outfits.  And there are lots of opportunities for children watching in the audience or at home to get in on the action.  My daughter certainly gives the moves a go!  In the interests of writing a fair review I have to admit that I find the heavily scripted dialogue a little overdone, and I prefer more natural sounding language.  But, obviously that’s just my opinion as a whopping 120,000 Aussies attended the Hi-5 Surprise tour!  What I DO like about Hi-5 is the way they expose young kids to harmony and part-work  in vocals.

“Zoo Party” is my kids’ favourite track and an example of classic Hi-5.  With its animals, actions, stick-in-your-head melody, calypso feel and lots of lah-lah-lahs it is sure to appeal to toddlers.  Check it out (you may have trouble viewing Youtube if you are still browsing in IE… try Firefox):

So, do you think your little groovers would like to “party at the zoo (lah-lah-lah-lah)” with Hi-5?!  Thanks to my kind friends at Roadshow I have THREE copies of the new DVD to give away.  All you have to do is leave a comment below sharing a song your kids like to sing. Easy.  The comp is open to Aussie residents only, one entry per person please, and winners will be drawn at random on Sunday 13th June 8pm Qld time. 

I received a pre-release review copy of the DVD courtesy of Roadshow Entertainment.

Random Winners:


Clearing The Fog

I’ve been in a bit of a fog lately.  It’s my own fault.  I’ve been there before and I’ll be there again, as many times as I need to in order to learn how to get the balance right in my life.

My intentions are always good, and my heart is in the right place – but I say YES too often.  I over commit and end up in a fog.  A fog of work, and expectation, and pressure, and deadlines.  I lose sight of the sun and get lost in the haze.

I’m always in the fog for a little while before I suddenly look up and realise that everything is out of focus.  Usually by then the damage is done.  Last week I forgot a friend’s birthday, even though it was marked in my diary.  My kids have had to physically come and pull me away from the laptop.  Those things don’t make me feel great.

The only good thing about realising I’m in a fog, is that it means I can take steps to clear it.  You can’t deal with something until you acknowledge it exists.  So here’s what I’m doing to clear the fog:

  • Stepping back – I’ve resigned from some paid online writing and social media work.  Money isn’t everything.  I’ll also have to say no to some of the online writing I do for free.
  • Stepping out – I’ve scheduled one fun night a week for me-time.  No house work, writing work, voluntary work or mummy work.  For someone who only earns a little I sure work a lot!  I need some breathing space, out of the house.
  • Stepping up – I’m increasing my commitment to family time.  It’s not that I need to dedicate more time, it’s more about being present.

Here in Brisbane foggy winter’s mornings clear to sunny blue skies.  The grey lifts, and the sun is right where it’s always been.  I take comfort in that.