Beach Holiday (and Toddler Tips)

We took a spontaneous long weekend away to the Sunshine Coast, which is only an hour from home for us.  All four of us really needed the time away from everything, we shared some lovely moments on the beach together:

The boys learned about water and waves.

We explored the rock pools (one of our all time favourite family activities).

We discovered new and interesting creatures: hermit crabs, fish, molluscs… and check out the amazing Spotted Sea Hare we found! (No, I didn’t know what it was without googling, though I guessed sea slug.)

And at the end of the day, we wandered the sandy shore together. Happiness.

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Holidays with under 5s are full of beautiful moments, but you have to find them.  Holidays with under 5s can also be tiring, challenging, and an organisational nightmare!!  I spoke on radio this week about my top 3 tips for holidaying with toddlers.

  • #1 = make bed times familiar
  • #2 = work in with toddler routines
  • #3 = take basic kitchen plastics (2 x plastic fork, spoon, plate, bowl, sippy cup)

Click the following link to hear the podcast if you’re interested:

SquiggleMum Podcast – Toddlers On Holidays

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.

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!!

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…?

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!

Do You See What I See?

What do you see?  A mess of snipped junk mail, or something more?

It’s a pond, silly!

Here, I’ll help you:

Frog, rocks,

lily pads, fish,

dragonfly, reeds.


A whole ecosystem!

(With night time stars reflected in the water…)

When I stop looking with grownup eyes and start looking with toddler eyes this beautiful creation comes to life.  It ceases to be a box full of junk mail and becomes the play world my daughter dreamed it to be.  Isn’t play a beautiful thing?

Come play at the Childhood 101 We Play link up…

Mum's Stuff

I’m not precious about stuff.  Stuff gets old, stuff gets broken, stuff gets lost.  It’s all just stuff.  I’m usually quick to say, “Never mind.  No big deal…” to the kids when accidents happen.  Usually.  Not this time.  I could have cried.

There are very few things in our home which are solely mine, and my laptop is one of them.  It got a special mention in my 100th post, and in my blogaversary post.  It was even the star of one of my earliest posts about maintaining a sense of self!  But my gorgeous, purple, blossom patterned Dell Inspiron does NOT usually look like this:

Do you have any idea, any at all, how relieved I was when I discovered my son had only used the WHITEBOARD marker from my blogging wall calendar?!!  Exhale.  The pen marks rubbed straight off.  No big deal.

And I was reminded again that stuff is just stuff.

Hi-Tech Play School

If you visit my blog regularly, follow my tweets or read my facebook updates you’ll know I’m a Play School fan.  A big one.  Partly because after more than 40 years on Australian television screens it remains the #1 program in the hearts of Aussie mum and kids – and partly because I secretly wonder if I’ve missed my calling in life by not being a presenter.

Yesterday the show opened with regular presenter Matt updating his blog on his laptop before sending a quick text to his co-presenter Karen, grabbing his digital camera and heading to the park!  Of course, the computer, phone and camera were all box constructions lovingly handmade out of recyclables.  I shared what I was seeing on fb and twitter.

and received lots of comments and positive tweets:

My readers were largely supportive of Play School’s hi-tech segment, but elsewhere online reactions ranged from bewilderment to outrage!  I for one fully support Play School’s inclusion of current technology in appropriate ways for the purpose of teaching our children about effective communication. It wasn’t an episode about playing computer games.  It was an episode about ways of sharing information, and helping our kids to understand the similarities and differences between online, offline, written, spoken and non verbal types of communication.  Like it or not, mobile devices are going to play an enormous role in our children’s lives, and our kids will need to be effective communicators in the digital world.

Here’s my daughter on her own box-construction laptop at 18mths of age:

And here’s her progression of laptop use from age 2-3:

Laptops, iphones, and other devices are a completely normal part of our world at home, and so they are completely normal for our kids.  Our three year old daughter already understands more about laptop usage than I did at thirteen (hang on, were laptops even around then…?).  I’ve posted about this before here.  As she grows it will be important for her to learn not only about the practical side of using technology, but also about the nuances between different communication platforms.  What we post on a blog is different from the information we would put in a txt and slightly different again from an update on facebook playbook (hehehe…. that was clever PS writers).  I applaud Play School for incorporating this understanding into their Communication theme this week.

What about you?

My Little Postman

There once was a boy who loved to post.

He could post anything, anywhere.

He posted things in the bin

and the toilet

and the dishwasher

and the laundry basket

and the sink.

He posted through the verandah slats

and out of windows.

The boy’s mother made him a postbox so that he could post sensibly,

but the boy was not interested in sensible.

He was interested in interesting.

It’s interesting to post necklaces in toilets.

It’s interesting to post toys in the bin.

It’s interesting to see Mummy’s reaction.

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Anyone else been through this interesting phase and have any suggestions to share?  It’s driving me crazy!