Monthly Archives: August 2010

Climbing Trees

I wonder how many children will grow up without ever having climbed a tree? More and more in the city I am seeing tree-less backyards.  Children aren’t allowed to climb trees in the vast majority of childcare centres or schools either, and kids today just don’t have the free outdoor time we did a generation or two ago.  As a result I’m guessing some children will never know the triumph of conquering a tree, or the pleasure of dreaming in the branches.

I have fond memories of tree climbing as a child.  My sister and I climbed trees in our own various backyards (we moved around a bit), climbed trees while visiting family and friends, climbed trees when we went camping and climbed trees in our local parks.  When were aged around 9 and 11 one of our favourite things to do was ride our bikes to the Milkbar, buy 20c worth of 1c lollies, ride to the park, climb a tree and eat them!  Such simple joy.

Miss Four has recently discovered that the macadamia tree in our backyard is quite climbable.  (I suspect that both the tree and the child have just grown big enough to enjoy each other’s company!)  The first time she tried climbing the tree our conversation went something like this:

LM4 – How high can I climb Mum?

Me – As high as you want to!  How high can you get?

LM4 – Cool! (starting to climb) What if I get stuck up here?

Me – Then you’ll have to work out how to get down.  If you’re big enough to climb up by yourself, you’re big enough to get yourself back down too.

LM4 – What if I fall?

Me – If you fall it will hurt of course.  You’ll probably get some scratches and bruises.  But you’re a clever girl.  If you think about what your hands and feet are doing you won’t fall down.  Bye!  Have fun up there!

Since then she has spent hours up in the tree.  She has made birds to take up to their “nest” and we’ve hung wind chimes way up high in the branches.  I’ve even delivered her morning tea in a little bucket hanging down from a string which she could pull up and enjoy in the tree! She is so happy up there, and I’m happy too – partly because I can see my daughter enjoying herself in nature, and partly because I remember.

Do you have memories of tree climbing as a child?  And do your kids climb trees??

Across The Backyard Story Bridge

I can’t believe it’s the last day of Book Week and I’m only just getting up my Book Week post!  The 2010 theme is Across The Story Bridge.  Seeing as though we have an actual bridge in our backyard over the dry creek bed, I thought we would take reading outside this week.  I spread a small rug on one side of the bridge with a selection of current favourites.

There’s something special about taking reading outdoors.  I always enjoyed taking books outside with my students, and I do with my own kids at home too.  I’m not sure what it is that makes books come alive more easily outdoors.  Perhaps it’s the sense of space, which opens possibilities and removes boundaries from little imaginations.  Or perhaps the heightened senses as a result of what you can hear, see, smell and feel outside makes stories seem more real. Whatever it is, I definitely think taking a book outside enhances the experience.

Here’s what we enjoyed in the late afternoon winter sunshine:

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Eric Carle) – this is the little man’s favourite at the moment and he enjoys joining in with a few words and phrases he knows.
  • Hello Baby! (Mem Fox/Steve Jenkins) – we enjoy the different animals and simple rhyming text from Australia’s best loved children’s author.
  • Kisses For Daddy (Frances Watts/David Legge ) – because it’s been SquiggleDad’s birthday this week, and Father’s Day is just around the corner too.
  • Too Loud Lily (Sophie Laguna/Kerry Argent) – entirely appropriate for my daughter. Guess why?!
  • Where The Wild Things Are – (Maurice Sendak) – a classic which really comes alive outside!

What’s across the story bridge at your place this week?

Kidspot Top 50 Blog Your Way to Dunk Island

How To Un-Spoil A Family Holiday

Ever the optimist, I always go on holidays with high expectations.  Before we go I imagine lazing around and enjoying sleep ins.  In my head the kids are perfect, and SquiggleDad and I get to hang out together like we did BC.  I expect that we’ll all have fun together, reconnect as a family, and return to the real world refreshed.  As I said, I’m an optimist!

With expectations like those, you can understand why I’ve been disappointed with family holidays in the past.  Each holiday we have taken though has helped me to learn a little more about myself, my husband, our family dynamics, and how to make sure the holiday is great for all of us.  So here are my 5 tips on how to un-spoil a family holiday:

  1. Ditch your expectations. I don’t think the media are on our side here.  Ads with stereotypical “happy families” on holiday in exotic locations put images in our minds that reality can’t live up to.  Even at our happiest on a beautiful beach, my family doesn’t look like we belong in a commercial.  My hair is frizzy from the sea air, I’m a little self conscious because I don’t look quite as I did two children ago, the kids are probably a bit grotty, and my husband has bags under his eyes.  That doesn’t mean we aren’t happy!  It just means we are real.  Having unrealistic expectations of what your family holiday will look like is bound to spoil your time away.
  2. Delay your departure. I don’t know about you, but by the time we escape for a holiday we are actually long overdue for it.  This means that my husband and I are both tired, stressed and overwhelmed by the busyness of life.  Changing our environment doesn’t necessarily change those feelings.  One thing we have learned (the hard way) is that we benefit from a day at home before we leave.  Sometimes the rush to “get there” is just another stress.  A chilled out day at home helps us both to unwind so that we can enjoy the holiday.
  3. Divide and conquer. There is still a lot of work to be done when you holiday with young kids.  Nappies to change, children to bath, tables to wipe down, dishes to wipe up, floors to sweep.  (We didn’t do ANY of this on our holidays BC!  We slept in, ate out, and did zero chores.)  I find that dividing the chores up before we go helps me to feel like I am having a holiday too.  I am grateful to be able to opt out of nappy changes for a few days!  We also take turns giving each other a sleep in.
  4. Treat everyone (including yourself). Everyone deserves to feel special on holidays.  In our family we each choose a holiday activity to do together – mum, dad and kids.  The four of us have different ideas of fun, so this way we all get to share with each other.  I usually choose markets or a bushwalk, SquiggleDad usually chooses a nice restaurant for a meal, and the kids choose anything from the beach to the zoo!
  5. Simplify. The simpler you make the holiday, the easier and more enjoyable it will be.  Keep your days simple, and don’t try to cram too much in.  Keep the routine simple and predictable.  Even on holidays young kids need normal bedtimes and daytime naps.  Pack simple essentials – play clothes, a couple of familiar bedtime stories, a toy for each child, a few kitchen essentials.  Eat simply.  And enjoy the simplicity.

A family holiday is bound to be spoiled if you have unrealistic expectations, leave in a rush and arrive stressed out, don’t give yourself a break from some of the mundane, focus only on the kids, and complicate things.  Do yourself a favour and un-spoil your next trip!

What other tips do you have for un-spoiling a family holiday?  I’d love to hear anything you’ve tried while on holiday with kids.  Leave your comments and suggestions below!

(Oh, and if you haven’t voted yet, I’d be truly grateful if you’d click through and give me a thumbs up!  You can vote for more than one blogger if you’d like to…)

Buckets and Strings

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best, aren’t they?  This week I put a piece of string up and over the branch of a tree, and tied a coloured bucked to each end.  Genius.  Mr Almost-Two has played with these buckets constantly.

Blue bucket down, yellow bucket up.

Yellow bucket down, blue bucket up, up, up!

And if you’re very, very clever – you can get both buckets to stop half way

and fill them up with



fairy stones


your morning tea…

Mm Is For Marvellous

I love letters and sounds, and when it comes to alphabet-based resources I know exactly what I’m looking for.  I want lowercase letters.  I want clear fonts.  I want letter-word relationships that demonstrate an understanding of phonics and awareness of the most common sounds.  I’m not asking or much, am I?!

I was so pleased to find the Mm Is For Me wall stickers checked all my boxes.  Ashleigh Hoyle has certainly done her research, and consulted with early childhood educators.  Each letter is filled with images of an animal (many Australian) or object with the corresponding sound.  I’ve put the Little Alphabet Wall Sticker Pack in navy onto a wall in the stairwell beside the kitchen table.  My daughter already likes to sit at the table with me to write some times, so it seems logical to have an alphabet nearby.  So far the stickers are a huge hit.  Mr Almost-Two points out the “crocodile-snap-snap” and “gecko-gecko” while Little Miss 4 delights in telling anyone who will listen about letters in her name and sounds she recognises.

Mm Is For Me also stock personalised clothes, cushions and more.  How happy was I to find this on their site?

Each picture in the letter begins with the same sound as the letter, so giraffes are for Gemma’s G, but not for Gabby’s G, and acorns are for Ava and but don’t make the sound for Anna’s A.

This is especially important for children whose name does NOT start with the most common sound for a letter.  Phonics can be so complicated!  I really appreciate the thought that Ashleigh obviously puts into her products, and it was great to meet her in person at the last Mathilda’s Market in Brisbane.

Thanks to Ashleigh from Mm Is For Me I am giving away a Big Alphabet Wall Sticker Pack (valued at $65) to one lucky SquiggleMum reader!  To win just leave a comment saying which Mm Is For Me product is your favourite. Comp is open to Aussie residents only and closes at 8pm Friday 27/8/10.  Winner drawn at random.  One entry per person please.

*  *  *   This competition has now closed.   *  *  *

Congratulations Lucy. You are the lucky winner!

Justine Clarke – In Concert

What an exciting day!  For the kids, I mean.  Not only did we get brilliant seats at Justine Clarke’s Great Big World concert, but we got to go backstage before the show to meet Justine!! (Just one of the perks of being an Aussie mummy blogger, and it probably helped that I have reviewed and given away copies of the Great Big World CD and DVD as well as interviewing Justine online.)

Justine is an absolute delight in person.  After meeting her pint sized fans, posing for countless photographs and signing autographs from the first concert, she had barely a moment to change before the second concert began.  She still managed to squeeze in a few minutes with us backstage, and we chatted about how the tour was going, which songs would be in the concert, and what it’s like juggling motherhood with stardom.

Then we found our seats, just three rows from the stage, and waited for the concert to begin.  Of course, the kids and I knew all the words to all the songs.  Mr Almost-Two loved that the drums were right in front of him too.  Here are some pics from the concert:

We clapped and sang.

We put on our dancing pants.

We did the Hullabaloo.

We made a dancing face.

And we loved it all!  Thank you Justine!!

If you are still hoping to get tickets to one of Justine’s concerts while she is on her Great Big World tour you can find out more info here about dates and venues.  And if you can’t make it to one of the concerts, make sure you get your hands on a copy of the album ($19.95 from ABC online).

Thanks for your vote!!

Allowing Reasonable Risk

In reflecting on our lovely day at the local show, one thing has really stayed with me.

The highlight of the show this year for me was the woodchopping.  Up there with the big blokes (and ladies!) was a little tyke the tender age of 5.  He stood on his block like the others, one foot on either end of the wood, and chopped right through between his feet.  I couldn’t help but notice how sharp and shiny his axe was as he swung it up into the air, and back down into the wood again and again.  It took him a long time, but the crowd were right behind him and let up a cheer when he finally split that log in two.

Watching the axe in that child’s hand made me think about the risks we do, and more often than not don’t, allow our children to take.  This child was obviously very capable.  He had been taught by someone who knew what they were doing, and he had the right tool in his hands.  I’m not saying that we should all rush out and buy our kids axes, but I am saying that we often underestimate what our children are capable of, given the right training and tools.

How often as parents and educators do we insist on only putting safety scissors into a child’s hands for fear of him cutting himself, when he is actually capable of wielding an axe?

Always, always we have a duty of care when we work with children, but this should not mean we eliminate all risk.  To read more from other educators who believe in making things “as safe as necessary, rather than as safe as possible” check out these bloggers:

These educators allow reasonable risk and encourage their young students to climb, construct, get wet, get dirty and use all manner of tools including hot glue guns, saws, hammers and more.  In doing so they encourage the students to assess risk for themselves, to learn about consequences, and to discover what their bodies can and cannot do.

Do  you allow  your children to take reasonable risks?

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Pasting Pictures

My little man watches his big sister construct all manner of creations with boxes, junk mail, scissors and glue.  She can whip up anything from a bird to a robot in no time.  The other day while watching her create some masterpiece, Mr-Almost-Two discovered glue.  Glorious, magical glue.

I grabbed a junk mail catalogue and chopped  out pictures of items he knows and can identify.  Truck, shoe, camera, train, baby, guitar, ball…

This made it a great language learning experience as well as a fun fine motor activity.  We talked about the objects as he pasted them on.  He would babble: “Ball, stick stick.  Stick ball.  Mummy.  Ball.  Stick, stick.”  And I would respond, “Yes, you’re sticking the ball onto your page.  It’s a yellow ball.  Good sticking.  What will you stick next?”

I was impressed he continued with the activity for as long as he did, given that he is an outdoorsy boy who would usually rather stick things with mud than stick with glue!  He enjoyed using the page after it dried as well, and we played lots of “Can you find the…?” games with the page.  Big sister liked playing too, and it was lovely to hear her mimicking the kind of language I had been modeling.

Do you or did you let your little ones loose with glue?  At what age…?

PS – It’s my birthday. You can make my day by voting here: I’m in the Kidspot Top 50 Bloggers list! Just click to vote – nothing tricky to it.  There are some pretty big bloggers in the list and I’m pleased just to be included.

Self Talk

Mr Almost-Two is enjoying putting pairs of words together at the moment, often featuring the word ME.

Every time he falls over, which is quite often given that he is an almost two year old boy, he says “Alright me?”  Then he picks himself up and carries on with whatever he was doing.

It never fails to make me smile.

As a mum, I fall down sometimes too.  It wouldn’t hurt to take a moment and ask “Alright me?” before I pick myself up and carry on.

Are you alright?  Really alright?  When did you last ask yourself…?

The Local Show

It’s Ekka time of year here in Brisbane!  The “Ekka” is the annual show or exhibition held in the city with rides, showbags, animals, entertainment and fireworks.  One day, I’m sure we’ll take the kids to the Ekka, but for now we are content to take them instead to our local show held on the outskirts of the suburbs.  A smaller show has much to offer a young family, without the crowds, queues or expense of a larger show!

I don’t usually include lots of photos in the one post, but I thought you’d like to see some of what the Samford Show had to offer:

Pony Rides

This is the only entertainment we paid for.

We’ll avoid other rides for as long as possible!

Motorcycles and Vintage Cars

There are better pics of the cars, but thought you’d like to see the backdrop!

Vehicles aren’t my thing but SquiggleDad enjoyed showing the kids, and we all voted on our favourites.  Little Miss 4 took her job very seriously, and carefully wrote down her number (with help) on the voting slip!

Local Fire Service

Lots of local services such as fire and police were available on the day to teach kids about safety.  We enjoyed seeing inside the fire engine, and watching a demonstration of how fires behave in our local area.

Baby Animals

Although my kids are nature-lovers and very aware of animals, their experience of farms is limited.  They both enjoyed feeding and patting the baby farm animals.


My son would have been happy here all day.  I was so grateful that the blokes running this stand didn’t mind a little boy sitting on their tractors.  All of them.

Family Time

The show is held half way between where we live, and where my folks live, so the kids enjoyed the day even more by spending it with their grandparents too.

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So what about you?  Do you go to the big show held in your capital city?  Do you opt for a smaller or rural show?  Or is neither available to your family?  And if you go, what does your family enjoy doing together?