Routine Charts for Easy Starts

The start of the day can be harrowing, especially if you have kids of different ages who need to get to different places!  The only way I know of getting everyone out of the door on time and with everything they need, is to establish good routines and stick to them.  Routine charts can be incredibly helpful for a child’s growing independence.  Young kids who can manage a few steps independently in the morning, become kids who are responsible for their own school materials, and then become teens who are capable of managing their own timetables.

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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.

End Of Year Thank You Gifts

As 2010 comes to a close (oh. my. goodness!) we say goodbye to some of the people in our “village” who have helped to raise our kids:  teachers, carers, coaches, babysitters, specialists… But what to give to show our appreciation?

This morning on air I suggested some alternatives to the usual gifts:

Listen here! SquiggleMum Podcast – thankyou gifts

  • Instead of chocolates… give a bowl of fruit.
  • Instead of a bunch of flowers… give a potted plant.
  • Instead of a book or calendar… give a magazine.
  • Instead of a coffee mug… give a range of teas or some gorgeous coffee.
  • More than anything… make sure you include a handwritten thank you card or note.

Two fruitbowls (one pictured above), wrapped in clear cellophane and finished with a Christmas bow went to my daughter’s kindy teachers yesterday.  What a wonderful year she has had!  Of course we included two thank you cards, and a handmade gift for use in the kindy.  (It is summer here in Australia, so our fruitbowls were full of delicious stonefruits and juicy mango. Mmmm.)

Don’t forget – when it comes to thank you gifts, the amount you spend is NOT an indication of how grateful you are!

Letters of Love – Letters to War

This week on 96Five FM (podcast below) I talked about their current campaign to send 3500 letters to soldiers serving away from home this Christmas. Many readers will know that I grew up in an Army family myself. My Dad served in the Australian Defence Force for 20 years, and much of my childhood was spent moving where ever Dad was posted. I remember the times when Dad was away. We missed him, and I’m sure he missed us too.

This year many Aussie families will be missing loved ones at Christmas because they are serving overseas. Kids will miss Dads.  Husbands will miss wives.  Parents will miss their adult children.  And soldiers will miss all that Christmas means to them back home.

So will you join me in writing a letter?  Just print off the letter head and write a quick note.  All the instructions you need are available on 96Five’s site.  Letters need to arrive at 96Five by this Friday, 10th December in order to make it into the hands of troops for Christmas.

I helped Miss 4 to write her own letter.  Her words are precious, “You might miss your family at Christmas and feel sad.  Don’t worry because you can blow kisses to them.  Kisses can fly all around the world (and they don’t pop)!”

If you’d like to hear my radio interview it’s available here: SquiggleMum Podcast – letters to war

PS – I wish I could also write a letter to every Mummy who has to manage this Christmas on her own with the kids while Daddy is away.  I would tell each mum that her kids won’t appreciate what she does, or notice how hard it is for her right now, but one day they’ll grow up. And then they will. xx

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.

*    *    *    *    *

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

How Mums Deal With Sick Kids

We have had a week of sickness, with both kids battling a raging fever followed by sniffles and the kind of cough that makes other mums raise their eyebrows. The thermometer is in constant use, and the infant paracetamol is getting a workout too. I think we’re through the worst of it now, with only the cough hanging on, but I’ll have to keep an eye on the little man as he is prone to ear infections.

This morning on air I shared some thoughts about dealing with sick kids.  Here are my three top tips:

  • Lower your expectations – Obviously the kids aren’t going to be at their best. Relax the routine, let go of the little things, be realistic about meal times, and don’t stress about the house (no one will be visiting anyway)!
  • Cancel your plans – If you have little ones under school age, cancel anything you can! Don’t bother with trying to squeeze things in… just let people know that the kids are unwell and you’ll reschedule asap.  If you have school aged kids, cancel school for a day or two (and sadly, yes, whatever you had planned too), and cancel afterschool activities until they are 100% well again.
  • Take shifts at night – Find a system that works for your family, so that you aren’t working 24-7. We either take turns night and night about so that only one of us is getting up, or take pre-midnight shifts and post-midnight shifts.  (This week though, our little boy only wants Daddy during the night!!)  Single mamas, you need extra help during the day because you have to deal with v-e-r-y long night shifts.

Working mums, how do you juggle your career with caring for sick little ones?  Do most of your sick leave days get used when the kids are sick, or when you are? Any tips to share?

SAHMs, how do you give yourself time to recharge so that you don’t go insane?!  Do you have a top tip to share?

If you’d like to hear the podcast from this morning, it should be available later today at 96Five.

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