Monthly Archives: February 2011

Gallery At Home

As my mother is an artist, the kids have visited the Queensland Art Gallery many times and also enjoy creating in Nanna’s studio.  There are few blank walls in our home, but I wanted to create a gallery space to showcase the kids’ own work.  We chose an awkward spot in our stair well which is seen by everyone as they enter our house.  (It’s also awkward to photograph!!)

There is space to add further “works” to our gallery.  Mr 2 doesn’t have anything on display as yet but will do soon.  I used basic frames from Ikea, and left the wooden frames bare.  I like that these frames have perspex instead of glass. This means that the kids can be involved in framing their works.  (And did I mention they are dirt cheap?)

You might notice the small cards on the wall below each art work.  In galleries these often give some detail about the piece or the artist.  As the kids get older we will include more information such as medium used.  For now though they have title, artist and year, and the centre painting has information about the story in the painting.

Here are some reasons why you should set up a gallery at home too!

  • Celebrate the unique creativity of each child in your family.  Having your children’s art works beautifully displayed communicates a strong message not only to visitors, but to your kids as well.
  • Give purpose to artwork. Although it is lovely (and important) to paint purely for the joy of painting, as children get older they often produce amazing results when they work purposefully.
  • Connect literacy with art by talking to your child about a title for their work.
  • Allow the opportunity for others to see from the child’s perspective.  Information on the tags helps visitors to understand where the child is coming from, and they are great too for stopping THAT question, “What is it? Is it a ……?”
  • Define great art.  Not every piece an artist creates makes it into a gallery, and not every piece in a gallery is everyone’s taste!  Great art is subjective.  Having gallery space provides an opportunity to discuss with your child why they think a piece should be in the home gallery.
  • Memories. Already Miss 4’s drawings have moved on from this stage, but I hope I never forget the sweetness of a felt pen stick figure titled, My Mummy.

So what do you think? Are you inspired to let your kids create with paint this week?  Perhaps even set up a gallery in your home? Does anyone have a home gallery already?! Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Fantastic Fungus

This summer has been so damp here in Brisbane, and while the resulting mould inside the house is NOT fun, the fungi growing outside has been amazing!

The great thing about having multiple species in one area is that the kids have been able to compare them.  We’ve been able to talk about

  • colour
  • size
  • shape
  • smell

and identify similarities and differences.  We haven’t touched the fungi in our yard.  Many species are harmless, and most are only problematic if eaten, but I cannot guarantee that a 2yr old (or even a nature loving 4yr old) will keep hands away from little eyes and mouths.  I am particularly cautious with red and yellow species as these are often “danger” colours in the Australian bush.

My blogging friend and educator Juliet from Creative Star Learning in the UK has some thoughts on children and fungi, and whether or not kids should be encouraged to touch. Please note that her recommendations are for Scotland though and NOT for Australia.

Without doubt though, the best species we have had in our yard is this one below.  It is definitely from the Stinkhorn family (Phallaceae or Dictyophora of some kind I’m guessing).  Stinkhorns grow from a button just below the surface, and stink like rotting meat when they emerge!  Miss 4 can tell if one is around the second we walk outside.  Flies and other insects are attracted to the stinky slime and swarm around.  They aren’t small, yet seem to pop up over night. Absolutely fascinating.

What do you think about investigating fungi with kids? Does the idea interest you, or disgust you? Would you have called this post Fantastic Fungus, or Freaky Fungi?!!

Life at 5 – Resilience

Did you watch the fascinating documentary Life at 5 last night on ABC1?.  The third installment of the Life Series saw the eleven Aussie kids involvied in the longitudinal study now aged 5.  Australia has already met these children and their families in Life at 1 and Life at 3.  (If you missed these ones you can iview them over at the Life Series site.)

(Shine: at age 1, age 3 and age 5.)

Over two episodes, Life at 5 tracks our group of children against contemporary scientific discoveries and findings from two areas of child development: childhood resilience, and the factors which enhance school readiness.  Life at 5 runs alongside Australia’s unique, federally-funded longitudinal study, ‘Growing Up In Australia‘, gaining exclusive access to a wealth of scientific findings from this study, in which 10,000 children and their families are interviewed over 15 years to unveil never-before captured sociological and scientific data. Though intimate, the adventure is big.  The Life Series combines vivid personality updates, interwoven with never-before seen archival footage and brand new psychological observations recorded on hidden cameras behind mirrored glass in The Life Lab…

The buzz word for last night’s episode was resilienceResilience is a topic I have written about previously, and it is a life skill worth serious investigation.  Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity, or roll with the punches.  For some time now research has been showing that children who exhibit resilience in their early years are far more likely to be “successful” in life as an adult. The experiments conducted in the Life Lab as part of the documentary revealed so much about the way children process and react to challenging situations.  Those of us who were chatting on twitter during the screening wondered how well our own kids would cope with the Marshmallow test!  (And perhaps even how well WE would cope…)  If you’d like to tweet with us next week, parents and educators will be using the hashtag #lifeat5 to keep up with the conversation.

I’m really looking forward to part 2 next week as the five year olds start school!  Hope you’ll join me then for a chat.  I’m off to buy marshmallows.

I was approached by the ABC to promote this series, but my opinion is my own.

Samuel's Kisses Book Review

What an absolute delight it was to be at Karen Collum‘s book launch today to celebrate her debut picture book, Samuel’s Kisses (New Frontier Publishing).  A truly heart warming tale, Samuel’s Kisses is an early childhood story beautifully illustrated by Serena Geddes.  Samuel blows kisses to unhappy shoppers with surprising, and entertaining results.  The uncomplicated plot makes for a feel-good story that is sure to be a hit with preschoolers, and Mums!  There are obvious opportunities for interaction between parent and child when reading, and the book also lends itself well to simple innovations on the text.  I predict Samuel’s Kisses will become a bedtime favourite.

At the launch today, we…

Caught up with Karen (author) and Serena (illustrator).

Made sure our book was autographed.

Listened to Karen read Samuel’s Kisses.

Enjoyed activities and explored the grounds of the gorgeous Marks & Gardner cafe gallery

(with the real Samuel!)

Gave kisses to Karen too!!

Oh, and one more thing I did was to ask Karen and Serena to sign a copy of Samuel’s Kisses for YOU.  Yes, one very lucky SquiggleMum reader will receive a signed, hard cover copy of this delightful picture book.  To enter, leave a comment below sharing how you let your kids know you love them. Do you blow kisses? Have a special saying? Write them notes? Sing to them? One entry per person please. Aussie residents only. Comp closes 6pm Saturday 19th Feb, Qld time.

If you’d like to hear more from Karen, you can find her on facebook or twitter.

*I received a copy of Samuel’s Kisses courtesy of my friends at New Frontier Publishing.

*   *   *


Congratulations to the random winner: Trish.

Everyone else… go and buy a copy!! Karen & Serena’s book is gorgeous.

Super Mum

This week I was Super Mum

NOT because the house was clean.

NOT because the clothes were all washed.

NOT because I baked from scratch.

NOT because I was neatly dressed.

NOT because we were on-time for the school run.

NOT because I juggled a multitude of commitments.

NOT because I lived up to anyone’s expectations, including my own.

This week I was Super Mum

BECAUSE when my son asked me to wear a cape to school, I did.

I did try all of those things in the list. Some I succeeded at. Some I failed dismally. Most I’ll be working on for a long time, and I’m ok with that.  I only need to be a good-enough mum, not a supermum.  Unless I’m in a cape. Then I’m seriously super.

Patisserie Play

The whole thing came about with a simple conversation.  Miss 4 shouted from the dirt kitchen “Mummy! Come and buy a cake from my bakery.”  I headed up to the nature cubby and placed my order…

Mum: Mmm, those cupcakes look delicious. I’ll have two of those please, and can I have a loaf of bread?

Miss 4:  Sorry, we don’t sell any bread here.

Mum: Oh? I thought this was a bakery?

Miss 4: It’s a bakery that only sells cakes.

Mum: I see. So you are a baker at a patisserie then.

Miss 4: What’s a pa-sister-y?

Mum: Patisserie. A patisserie is shop where they sell lovely cakes and pastries and little treats.

Miss 4: Oooh, this is sure a patisserie. Can we make a real patisserie one day?

Mum: That’s an awesome idea!

So we did.

I wholeheartedly believe that there is no need to force learning at home. Play is the most natural way for a child to learn! Just look at how much we covered during a child-initiated game with NO pre-planning on my part. Literacy, numeracy, life skills and more. Anything we used was already around the house or in the pantry.

Two Year Old

  • Independently select colour of icing
  • Stir food colouring into icing with some assistance
  • Independently decorate cupcakes choosing from 3 options (sprinkles, tiny bears, mini marshmallows)
  • Develop skills in self control (not eating each cupcake when it was finished was very challenging for him!)
  • Role play as a shop keeper, copying actions and language of big sister
  • Exchange a cupcake for coins
  • Count to three

Four Year Old:

  • Independently ice cupcakes using a piping bag (!!) and decorate
  • Independently write signs necessary for the shop (Patisserie, Open, Shut)
  • Set up the shop using our playstand
  • Decide on the price of cupcakes
  • Count coins
  • Perform simple addition with support (one pink cupcake plus one green cupcake)
  • Role play incorporating appropriate language (serve, order, change, customer), new vocabulary (patisserie) and social conventions (welcome, smile, polite questioning, good-bye with invitation to come again)
  • Wash the dishes after the game

PLEASE don’t think, “Ooh – we must play patisserie at home this week!”  I didn’t choose this play. My children did. I encourage you to instead look for an opportunity to extend your children’s play further, based on whatever they are naturally doing.

Cyclone Yasi and Media Storms

As the South-East part of the state recovers and rebuilds following the floods, the North and Far-North Queensland communities are bracing for the most severe cyclone we have ever seen.  Tropical Cyclone Yasi will hit tonight.  Schools have been closed for the rest of the week.  Hospitals have been evacuated.  Airports shut. Roads closed. Thousands and thousands of residents told to flee. This is a very, very serious storm.

(Satellite image at time of post: Bureau of Meteorology)

There is likely to be extensive coverage on television networks for the next 48 hours, possibly longer (particularly in Qld).  Here are some things I learned about the coverage of a natural disaster during the recent floods:

  • It will be incessant.  Expect rolling coverage, and the cancellation of regular programming (including children’s shows).
  • It will be emotional.  Footage will show real people dealing with real feelings.
  • It will be traumatic.  Homes will be destroyed, and lives may be lost.
  • It will be dramatic.  In case a natural disaster isn’t dramatic enough on its own, you can be sure the footage will include carefully selected songs, slow motion scenes, soft focus tear-stained faces and images of precious possessions amid rubble.

My message to you is to protect your children from some of the media storm if they are not directly affected.  It is up to us to expose our children to enough so that they understand what is happening at an age-appropriate level, yet protect them from some of the dramatic footage which they are not emotionally ready to deal with.  As I said with the last natural disaster in my state:

As parents, we have a responsibility to walk our children through times like this – and it isn’t always easy.  Their questions need to be acknowledged, even if we can’t give them answers.  We have to know our kids.  Really know them, in order to help them make sense of the world around them. We have to know how much information they can comprehend.  We have to know how sensitive they are.  We have to know how much they are likely to worry.  We have to know what will reassure them.  We have to know our kids.

Can I ask you to do two things?

  1. Please pray for those directly affected by this disaster.  If you are on twitter you might like to use the hashtag #pray4qld as well as #TCYasi
  2. Turn the TV off. Don’t leave it running, replaying the disaster over and over again in front of your kids.  Watch some together. Answer their questions. Talk about what we can all do to help. Then turn the TV off.

If you would like me, and other readers, to pray for anyone in particular in Yasi’s path, please just leave a comment below. We will hold them in prayer throughout the night and into tomorrow. Blessings, Cath. xx