Screen Time for Kids

It’s a question often whispered amongst parents.  We don’t want to ask out loud for fear of judgment, but most of us admit to using it.  The TV.  The question is… how much is too much?

I spoke on air recently about screen time.  If you missed it on the radio, you might like to listen to the podcast below:

96Five Radio Podcast

Here are some of my thoughts:

  • I’m not against television viewing.  In fact, I quite often review children’s programs here on the blog.  BUT… I think as parents we should select what we allow our kids to watch, rather than leaving the TV to run.
  • The maximum time a child should spend looking at a screen is 2hrs a day.  Some new research is suggesting that children under two shouldn’t watch any television at all.  Keep this in mind especially if you have older children watching while your little one is in the room.
  • One of the biggest problems with television is what it doesn’t do.  It doesn’t converse with your child. It doesn’t improve your child’s fine or gross motor skills.  It doesn’t give them hands on experience.  It doesn’t replace the real world, or real people.  Make sure your child’s real experiences far outweigh their virtual ones.
  • Screen time includes more than TV.  If your child has access to a computer, iPod, iPad, iPhone or other smart phone it all counts towards screen time.  Two hours can pass quickly. It’s up to parents to monitor and limit use.
  • Use screen time when it best benefits your routine. For our family, it’s the late afternoon.  Usually the kids play outside in the afternoon, then they come in for some quiet screen time while I cook dinner.  Saturday mornings are the only mornings the TV is allowed to go on.

For a fantastic list of alternatives to screen time to try with your kids, check out this article “Installing Speed Bumps to Television Viewing” by Little Eco Footprints over at Childhood101.

Music for Children to Dance

Do your children like to dance? Mine do.  This morning we twirled and whirled in tutus together – yes, I put one on too.  My daughter asked for “dancing music” so I flicked through the CD collection until I settled on one.

I didn’t choose The Wiggles, even though Dorothy rather considers herself a dino-ballerina.

I didn’t choose Justine Clarke, even though she’s hands down my favourite children’s entertainer.

I didn’t choose a Playschool album, or a Jimmy Giggle album, or any other children’s album.

So what DID I choose? Continue reading

One Stitch At A Time

My friends at Black Dog Books sent me a copy of One Stitch At A Time, a beginner’s guide to making soft toys.  While I am not the world’s best sewer – I have to admit that it is gorgeous.  Author, Gen West, has collaborated with Postman Pat puppet maker Laura Clempson.  Needless to say, the softies in the book are impeccably stitched!  The complete toy making kit contains everything you need to make your first softie, plus patterns and instructions for other soft toy animals.  (Lots of great literacy skills involved in reading instructions and working with patterns.) Continue reading

Floor Train Play

Many of my friends with little boys have amazing train tables, and I’ve often been just a little envious!  We don’t have the space for one, so I’ve been on the lookout for a trundle train-tray which can be pushed under my son’s bed.  The only ones I’ve seen have been just too expensive – so the search continues. Continue reading

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.

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.

Lions and Tigers and Tea – oh my!

There are lots of gorgeous teasets available for little girls, but ones that are gender-neutral, or suitable for boys, are quite hard to find.  I don’t want my son to think that kitchen things are just for girls!  Mr 2 loves to make “cups of coffee” for visitors (or for his Dad) and this wooden set is perfect for him.

This week I helped him to take his “cup of coffee” play a step further, and set up a little table in his room.  The R-O-A-R sign was already on his bedroom wall so seemed the logical place for lions and tigers to catch up for coffee!  I must say the Big Cats were very well mannered. They even blew on their coffee to cool it down.

We might follow up this play with a trip to the library to see if we can find the classic 60’s picture book “The Tiger Who Came To Tea” as well.  It seems rather appropriate, don’t you think? (For another post related to this picture book, jump over to Childhood101).

Don’t forget to enter the Hi-5 Competition! Entries close this Sunday 30/1/11

Playing With Recipes

My independent Miss 4 loves to make up her own recipes in the kitchen.  She has helped me with basic baking for most of her little life, so she has some idea of what a cake needs, and how to go about it.  Today I baked gingerbread shapes ready for Christmas, while my daughter made her own cakes from scratch.

First she wrote out her recipe.  Not a bad effort!!  I try not to do too much “teaching” with her at home. She’ll have plenty of that at school next year.  I simply encourage her to write down any sounds she can hear.  She did ask me how to write a “shh” sound, but the rest she did independently. Oh, and she didn’t have flour in her list.  I suggested adding that might be a good idea!!

Next we read her recipe together and got out the ingredients she needed.  I put the sugar, water, egg, flour and sprinkles into small bowls, in order of her recipe.  She was a tad excited about starting.  (I just love this pic…)

She probably spent an hour making her little cakes, carefully adding a spoonful of this and a spoonful of that. She cracked the egg into the mix herself, and added more wet or dry ingredients to get the consistency right.  SO much learning going on in this play!

She divided the mixture up into 4 muffin pans, then it was into a medium oven for – well, we didn’t really know how long! They looked ready at about 15mins.

Since I was icing the gingerbread shapes anyway, I put a twirl of icing on top of her finished cakes.  What a treat to eat your own creation for afternoon tea!  And how did they taste?  Not too bad actually.  A bit like damper.  With icing.

Do you let your kids “loose” in the kitchen?


Playing With Pasta

We have enjoyed playing with dried pasta lately. I let the kids choose which shapes of pasta they would like when we do the groceries. Different shapes are suited to different activities, but all are great for keeping little minds and little hands busy. Here are three easy ideas to try!

  • Pasta pictures. I put out small bowls with a handful of different pasta shapes in each.  I also put out sturdy squares of cardboard, and PVA glue.  For Mr 2’s picture I spread glue thinly over his whole page so that he could stick pasta where ever he liked.  “Stick! Stick! Stick!” he said each time he glued a piece of pasta to his card.  He was very proud of his finished product!  For Miss 4, I put the PVA into a small yoghurt container with a cotton bud to use as a brush.  As you might expect with a four year old, she had an idea in mind and set about creating her image with carefully placed pieces of pasta.  As you might also expect with a four year old, I had NO idea what she was creating so had to ask some sensitive, open ended questions to allow her to explain her work.  (Her pasta picture was playground!)

  • Pasta Sculptures. The addition of playdough makes 3D sculptures very achievable.  Miss 4 had tried to glue some of her pasta pieces so that they would stand up on the page, but was frustrated with process of making it happen.  This lead us to the idea of using playdough with the pasta.  Again, we shouldn’t make any assumptions about children’s art.  Instead of asking, “What is it?” or worse, guessing “Is that a …?” I usually say, “Can you tell me about what you’ve made?”  I might have guessed the creation above is an echidna, but actually it is an island with lots of rocks and sticks and some very tall trees on it.

  • Pasta necklaces.  Both of my kids like dress up beads, and pasta provides excellent threading opportunities.  Large shells with large holes are perfect for little ones who are developing their fine motor skills.  Smaller shells with smaller holes prove more of a challenge for older children.  We also added some pieces of coloured paper simply punched with a hole in the centre for some bling!

Do you have any other pasta play ideas to add? Leave a comment below…