Monthly Archives: October 2010

Australasian MOPS Conference

You might have noticed I’ve been offline more than usual lately, because I’ve been super busy with the 2010/2011 Australasian MOPS Conference!  (Mothers Of Pre Schoolers)  I have been involved with Queensland Conferences for the last few years, but this is the first national one to be held since I became a mum in 2006.  Five mums from my group flew down to Sydney together for the weekend – without kids!  Here are my highlights from the Conference:

Colin Buchanan:

Playschool presenter, Christian children’s entertainer and Australian country singer Colin Buchanan came to perform for us on the Friday night.  Not only did he play all our kids’ favourites, but he also played Be My Friend: The Facebook Song (for me!!) and wrote a gorgeous song about Aussie Mums.

Keynote Speakers from MOPS International:

We were delighted to host two special guest who flew over from the US for our Conference.  Liz Selzer is a highly sought after speaker, and so vibrant on stage!  Pictured above is the current President of MOPS International: Shelly Radic.  I met Shelly a couple of years ago (when I was hugely pregnant!!) and it was wonderful to catch up with her again.


At all MOPS Conferences there are great elective workshops on offer.  As Coordinator of my local MOPS group I attended a workshop with Shelly Radic and met up with Coordinators from all over Australia, New Zealand and even Papua New Guinea.  I also had the opportunity to run an elective myself, and enjoyed sharing my knowledge of social media with other mums in leadership.


I was kinda busy during the weekend because it was my privilege to lead the Worship team.  What a buzz it was singing with 200 mums from around Australia!  A friend-and-fellow-MOPS-leader and I also co-wrote the theme song together for the Conference.  I was truly humbled to hear our song being used to worship God.

It was such an exciting weekend, and reminded me of why I am a MOPS Leader: because better mums make a better world.

Even there his hand will hold you; His right hand will hold you fast.

(Psalm 139:10)

Splish, Splosh, Splash!

In case you haven’t heard, we’ve had rain in Brisbane. Lots of rain.

The kind of rain that floods


and kindergartens

and laundries (sigh).

But you know me.

I’m a puddle half-full kind of girl…

Without heavy rain:

we might never wear gumboots.

Without heavy rain:

we might never know the joy of jumping in puddles.

Without heavy rain:

we might never discover some of nature’s secrets.

Without heavy rain:

we might never have the opportunity to

splish, and splosh, and splash together.


Do you play in the rain?

We do.  And we love it!

15 Places to Find Fine Motor Fun

While I’m away at the Australasian MOPS Conference, the super-lovely Christie from Childhood101 is guest posting for me:

Sometimes as parents we are in a rush to help our children conquer the ‘big’ milestones, like learning to read and write.  In our haste we sometimes forget about spending time working on the smaller steps which are just as important for our children to master along the way.  Just as learning to stand and cruise the furniture is a normal part of learning to walk, learning to write will be a much easier process for children who have had lots of opportunities for fun and playful practise of fine motor skills.  Handwriting will be much harder for a child who does not have reasonable control over a pencil or good co-ordination of what the brain thinks, the eye sees and the hand does.

When we think of fun ways with fine motor skills, puzzles, bead threading and building with blocks are usually the first activities to come to mind however some children have little interest in any, or all of, these.  For these children especially, looking outside the box for fun ways to develop fine motor skills is really important and there are plenty of opportunities to be had in all types of interesting places!

15 Places to Find Fine Motor Fun

At the beach

Try writing special messages to each other in the damp sand with your fingers.  Or get collecting, looking for shells with holes in them as they are perfect for threading onto string to make a simple bracelet or necklace, or hang your strings in the window to remind you of Summer all year long.

At the hardware store

Screwing together nuts and bolts, locking padlocks with mini keys and sliding latches all make for hours of concentration and fine motor fun, especially with preschoolers.  An easy lock board can be made by securing a combination of locks and latches to a small piece of peg board.

At the garden nursery

Bring home a seed packet or two of potted colour and have fun poking finger holes into your soil and then dropping one seed into each hole, it’s trickier than you think :)

In your sewing room

Make a simple toddler friendly sewing project using an embroidery hoop and plastic drawer liner.  Add a plastic needle or metal bodkin threaded with a colourful piece of wool, tying one end of the wool to the needle and the other through the a hole in the drawer liner.  Teach your child to push the needle through and pull until the wool is taut.  Preschoolers might like to embroider around simple shapes drawn onto the drawer liner with marker pen.

At the park

Find a patch of daisies and teach your preschooler the simple childhood joy of making daisy chain necklaces or crowns.

Whilst singing

Finger plays are not just fun to sing, doing the actions is great fine motor fun as well.  Start with The Incy Wincy Spider, Here is the Church, Round and Round the Garden, Pat A Cake, Pat A Cake, 1-2-3-4-5 Once I Caught a Fish Alive, Here is the Beehive… a Google search will help you find many, many more.

By the washing line

Pegging clothing is a quite a tricky skill when you really think about the co-ordination involved.  Set up a little clothes line and let your toddler or preschooler wash their dolls clothes and peg them out to dry.

In a tub of water

Give your toddler a tub of soapy water, a small cloth and a collection of interesting shells to wash.  What toddler doesn’t love playing with water?

At the breakfast table

Cereal isn’t just good for eating, hole-y cereal, like Cheerios, is also fun to thread.  A Cheerio necklace could just be the new answer to breakfast on the go!

In the playground

Why not introduce your preschooler or kindergartener to the childhood fun of a game of marbles?

In the shed

Give your child a sorting tray and a jar containing an assortment of screws or bolts of varying sizes – large, medium and small, and ask him/her to sort them into the tray according to size.

In the kitchen

Who would think fine motor skills could be found in a batch of biscuit dough?  Rolling dough, cutting with cookie cutters and decorating with icing and sprinkles all involve varying degrees of motor control.

For the Christmas tree

With Christmas closer then we like to think, why not get a head start on the decorations and make some clove covered oranges to hang in your home. They will look festive and smell great.  Another simple Christmas craft idea, suitable for preschoolers (under supervision) is to make tree decorations by pushing small round head pins through a sequin and into a polystyrene ball.

Whilst you are cleaning

Give your child a spray bottle of water and point them in the direction of any windows which need cleaning.  Wiping the water off with paper or a cloth is also good for large motor development.

On your games shelf

Grab out the dominoes and get busy making paths to knock down.  Early primary school aged children will enjoy the challenge of trying to make card houses from a deck of cards; also great for developing concentration, patience and task persistence.

Thanks Christie!
Jump over to Childhood101 for information, education and inspiration.

Author Spotlight – Aleesah Darlison

Guest post by Aleesah Darlison:

The Joys and Challenges of Writing for Children

I set my dreams to become a published author in motion just over four years ago. After having my second child, I thought I could become an author by simply writing while the kids slept. Naive, I know, but these are the slender foundations dreams are often built on.

Now, four years later, I have had my very own picture book, Puggle’s Problem, published (by Wombat Books). It’s a story about a baby echidna, a puggle, who can’t get his spines. Even though echidnas are Australian animals, I’ve found that not many people actually know what a puggle is. But I’m quickly changing that.

As well, the first instalment in my new series for girls aged seven and over, Totally Twins: Musical Mayhem, was released by New Frontier Publishing in September. It will be followed by the second book in the series, Totally Twins: Model Mania, due out in November.  Besides these three releases in 2010, I have a further 10 books due out in the next 2 years. So, I guess you could say I’ve found my niche in writing for children. And I simply love it. It’s a career loaded with joys and rewards, and yes, the occasional challenge. To kick off, here’s my shortlist of joys:

1.       First and foremost, writing for children is FUN. You have a great deal of freedom in terms of what you can write for kids to entertain, educate and inspire them. So many themes and topics, so many genres, including the wonderful realm of fantasy, which allows a writer to do some amazing world building and wish fulfillment.

2.       I love how I can play with language in picture books. I love their simplicity yet complexity, their rhythm and their rhyme.

3.       Picture books don’t have a lot of text, so they must be easy to write, right? Well, not quite, but they are the perfect literary medium to dip into and out of while still attending to the many duties of motherhood. A picture book text is way easier to memorise and rework inside your head than a full length novel. Trust me.

4.       I adore having my work illustrated. It’s stick figures only for me when I attempt to draw anything, but because I write for children, I have the joy of seeing my words – and my worlds – brought to life by some of the most talented artists in Australia. What a gift!

5.       In my books, I can relive my own childhood memories and experiences. I can share things that happened to me with others. Through my characters I can repair or change mistakes I may have committed in my past. And sometimes, I can just let my imagination take over and create completely new stories.

6.       I love visiting schools and libraries to talk about my writing to kids, to have them listen to my stories, to make them laugh and hear them say how much they enjoyed my stories or liked a particular characters. Kids give great, honest, valuable feedback about your writing.

7.       Children’s authors in Australia are a friendly and supportive bunch of people. It’s a fabulous industry to work in.

8.       Finally, I adore my driving aim, which is to write stories that appeal to kids. Stories that might be silly and funny and free. Stores kids will take to their hearts and read over and over again. Just as any good book should be.

So, that’s the joys of writing for children in a nutshell. On the flipside, there are challenges. My Top 3 would be:

1.       Perhaps not being taken as seriously as people who write for adults.

2.       Sometimes it’s hard to reach your audience, which for me is 3 – 6 year olds and 7 – 12 year olds, depending on whether it’s a picture book or junior novel.

3.       Juggling the demands of motherhood and a career in children’s writing that is beginning to be full time.

For me, the joys of writing for children far, far outweigh any challenges. I’m lucky and happy that I can now call myself a published author. That children are reading and embracing my books. I wouldn’t change what I’m doing for all the world, because writing for children is an utterly joyous occupation.

Aleesah Darlison writes picture books and novels for children. She also reviews books for The Sun Herald. Aleesah has won many awards for her writing including an ASA mentorship with Kate Forsyth in 2009. Her stories have appeared in the black dog books Short and Scary Anthology, The School Magazine and Little Ears. Her first picture book, Puggle’s Problem, was released in July. Her junior series for girls aged 9 plus, Totally Twins: Musical Mayhem, was released in September. The series follows the adventures of identical twins, Persephone (she’s the sensible one) and Portia (she’s the messy one) Pinchgut and is written in diary format by Persephone.

Next stop on Aleesah’s blog tour is Let’s Have Words with Claire Saxby, where Aleesah will be talking about the difference between writing picture books and novels for children. Check it out on Monday 18 October.

Stick Sculpture

After Mr 2’s birthday there were lots of new and exciting gifts to open.  Several toys were wired into boxes with clear coated wires about 20cm each in length.  I kept them, figuring they would come in handy for something.  It’s a teacher thing – we can’t help ourselves!!

The kids collected a nice bunch of sticks from the backyard the other day, and we played around with them for a while before deciding to turn them into a “sculpture”.  (This is a word Miss 4 knows from visiting the Art Gallery and exploring different mediums with her artist-Nanna.)  My daughter’s first suggestion was to attach the sticks to each other with sticky tape.  We discussed whether sticky tape would hold very well to the bark and wood, and decided string would be better.  When we went to get some string, we discovered the wires!  Perfect!!

Wiring the sticks together was fiddly for a four year old, but fantastic for fine motor skill development.  She put the sticks and wires where she wanted them, and I just tightened up the joints.  It was also her idea to add some feathers into the joints, and I think the final result is rather lovely.

The sculpture is sitting on top of a skinny cabinet in the hallway just beside the back door.  This Ikea cabinet is fabulous because everyone in the family has their own drawer for outside boots and hats!  The birdcage decals run right along the hallway, so my daughter’s addition of feathers to the sticks seems just right.

Adventure Through The Maze

Have you ever taken your children through a maze?

We recently explored this fantastic bamboo maze together:

Follow me! I’ll lead the way…

It’s definitely this way. Definitely. I think…

Hey! Come back. Wait for meeeee!!

Which way now?

Hooray!  We found the fairy in the middle of the maze.

Now how do we get out of here…?

Lost and Found

We had an unexpected visitor to our backyard in the form of a tame Budgerigar.  The poor thing was being swooped by our resident Noisy Miners and seemed unable to fly away.  We could see an identification band around its leg, so assumed it was someone’s pet.

Using a towel we carefully caught the bird without frightening it.  The only container we had to put the budgie in was the one we also used for the frog!  A little on the small side – but safer than staying in the yard.  Then of course, we had to decide what to do with it.

We printed some simple signs saying FOUND – YELLOW BUDGIE and a contact number.  Then we walked around our street and put the signs onto telephone poles and into letterboxes.  When we didn’t hear from anyone for 24hrs we took the bird down to our local vet.

There was so much learning involved in this whole process, and I was able to ask the kids questions like:

  • What kind of bird is it?
  • Do you think it’s wild, or someone’s pet?
  • Why do you think it can’t fly away?
  • Why shouldn’t we keep it?
  • How might the bird be feeling?
  • What might the bird need to be more comfortable?
  • How might the bird’s owner feel?
  • How far might the bird have come?
  • How could we find the owner?
  • What should we write on our sign?
  • What will we do if we can’t find the owner?
  • What do you think the budgie’s name might be?!

We hope our feathered friend has been reunited with its owner :-)