Monthly Archives: November 2009

Nature Games: Marble Run

A friend of ours has a game my daughter never tires of: a marble run.  It’s the first thing she asks for whenever we visit.  She loves putting the pieces together, dropping the marbles into the hole at the top and watching them make their way down through the tubes.

This week in the backyard we seemed to have an abundance of bark, so I suggested we make our own marble run using macadamia nuts.  I showed Little Miss 3 how the nut would roll down if she propped one end of the bark against a tree, and that was all the encouragement she needed.  She found extra bark to add at the bottom to keep the nut rolling.  There was a lot of trial and error, and occasional moments of frustration, but overall we had a fun time outdoors playing (and learning).


Many commercial games today have their roots in the great outdoors.  Some games have exceptionally long histories, with evidence dating back thousands of years.  Children (and adults) played games long before the development of checkers, or chess pieces, or monopoly counters or marbles.  Before there was cardboard, boardgames were simply scratched out in the dirt.  And nature provides plenty of “counters” in the form of pebbles, nuts, berries and more.

An easy game to try in the backyard is noughts and crosses.  Scratch the grid out in the dirt, but use rocks and leaves (or whatever’s around) as counters and try to get three in a row.  If you have older kids you might like to have a go at mancala style games using holes in the dirt and small stones.

Do you have any other suggestions for outdoor boardgames?

Freedom In Trust

toddler translation 1

I’m playing Toddler Translation again with Childhood 101 and this week’s word is trust.

trust [truhst] –noun

reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.



Families are built on trust.

My son trusts Daddy to hold him tight.

I trust my husband too.

There is no fear in this photo.

There is freedom in trust.

As a family

we trust each other

and we trust

in God.

Advanced Toilet Training (Parenting Aus)

Complete toilet training is a longer process than I thought.  I’m sharing my thoughts on the whole process over at Parenting Australia today.  Head over there to read the rest of this post, and find out what’s involved in, ahem, ATT.

Before I had my own children, I thought toilet training was a period of a few weeks whereby a child transitioned from wearing nappies to wearing pants. Sure there would be accidents, and a few incentives might be required, but once it was done it was done. Over. Finished. Good bye nappy, hello happy pants.


We generally say a child is “toilet trained” when they can recognise the need to go, and get there in time to do it. But there is still a lot more to the toilet training process.  I am learning that it takes a couple of years (yes, YEARS) for the process to be done.  Beyond the basics of get-there-and-go comes what I’m calling Advanced Toilet Training. Yep, made that one up all by myself.  ATT for short.


Wild Things

On the weekend my kids and I went to a wild rumpus in the park hosted by Cradle Fables.  We roared our terrible roars and gnashed our terrible teeth and rolled our terrible eyes and showed our terrible claws.

The wild rumpus was of course inspired by Maurice Sendak’s classic picture book Where The Wild Things Are.  The story which has enchanted generations of children is about to be released as a feature film, sparking renewed interest in the tale.  I remember having this story read to me as a child, I have studied it with students and now have the privilege of sharing it with my own children.  Here are my little wild things listening to the story at the rumpus.


While the book appears simple, containing in fact only ten sentences, it is actually a very deep story.  Here are my thoughts on how you can help your little ones to get the most out of this remarkable picture book:

  • Read it slowly.  I usually find I need to read this story more slowly than some other books, partly to give my child time to process and partly because many sentences run over several pages.
  • Read it emotively.  Toddlers need your emotion behind the words to help them understand the context.
  • Read it dramatically.  There are lots of opportunities to interact with the book.  Roll your eyes, gnash your teeth, stare your toddler down, use your face to show what loneliness feels like.  Boys especially need this physical interaction with the text.
  • Understand the subtext.  This is actually a book about anger.  Mum sends Max to his room for stirring up trouble, and while in time out he processes his frustrations through imaginative role play.  The resolution comes in his understanding and acceptance of his mother’s loving discipline.  Obviously that’s an adult explanation of the text and not one you would share with a child (!!) but understanding the subtext may help you to connect the book to your own child’s experiences.  Have they been sent to time out?  When they are angry does their face look like Max’s?  Do they know that someone loves them best of all, even when they mess up?
  • Don’t worry too much.  Some parents are concerned about the scariness of the story, and worry that their child may not sleep well.  I have shared this book with many, many children and my experience has always been positive.  Even though the wild things are a little scary looking, Max is always in control and readers usually identify with Max.
  • Leave your child questioning!  Most children will be quick to realise that Max has been imagining – or has he?  Check out the moon at the start and the end of the book…

Happy reading!!  ROOAARRRRRR!

The Boys Are Back (Win Tix!)

The Boys Are Back is a beautiful film shot in South Australia, starring Clive Owen and directed by Scott Hicks, director of Shine.  Inspired by a true story, it is the touching tale of a father who finds himself raising two sons alone while grieving the loss of his wife.  As he transitions from part time parent to full on father he learns a lot about his children, and perhaps even more about himself.

Would you like a night out at the movies?  I can’t organise baby sitting for you, but I do have TEN DOUBLE PASSES to giveaway thanks to Hopscotch FilmsThe first ten SquiggleMum subscribers (new or existing, by email or RSS) to leave a comment below will win.

Hopscotch were also kind enough to send Christie from Childhood 101 and I tickets to catch the flick, and while we saw the film on opposite sides of the country we enjoyed chatting about it online.  Here are some of our thoughts reflecting on the film:

Cath: So was it what you expected?

Christie: I really enjoyed the fact that the movie explored parenting from a male perspective and the relationship between Dads and sons.  Though obviously it is just one perspective.

Cath: I enjoyed the Dad and boys perspective too. Especially in the light of having recently heard Steve Biddulph speak on raising boys, and the importance of the relationship between fathers and sons.

Christie: I found it really poignant when the Dad told his mother-in-law that his young son didn’t really know him, that they needed time to get to know each other and how to relate to each other.

Cath: Yes, it made me wonder how many fathers would have to “get to know” their sons in the same situation.  And also made me wonder as a mum how I can facilitate my husband “knowing” my kids right now…

Christie: I think men generally relate differently to their children, and I think this generation of fathers especially have had a whole new set of expectations place upon them.

Cath: I think this generation of fathers genuinely want to be Dads, want to spend time with their kids and want to be involved – but making it happen is hard.

Christie: And society keeps pushing all of us to work longer and harder as members of the workforce which does not facilitate better family relationships in any way.

Cath: That was really highlighted in the movie: a dad pushed so hard at work that he chose to leave his kids overnight to save face with his employer.  No dad wants to be in that position.

Christie: Though wasn’t the older boy sweet and brave to offer to stay? I really felt for him when it all fell apart.

Cath: Yes – sweet and brave.  I hope I raise a boy who is sweet and brave, even if he doesn’t always get things right.

Christie: So, how do we support our husbands to help them have the time and opportunity to be involved?

Cath: I think we have to take a step back sometimes. As mums we can be control freaks!

Christie: That is very true.  I think it is important for a child to have time one on one with each parent, as well as time together as a whole family.

Cath: I agree.  And while I absolutely think that parenting works best when both parents are on the same page, I think mums need to let dads do things their way without us criticising.

Christie: I also believe, it is about that being time truly being together too, not just watching the TV or doing chores around the home but having fun, laughing together, getting out and sharing unique experiences.

Cath: Getting the most out of whatever time you have together.

Christie: That is right, creating memories with children.

Cath: But I have to say… if the memory making involves dad driving on the beach with a child on the bonnet of the car, I’d probably step in there!! LOL

Christie: Well, sometimes what Mum doesn’t know can’t hurt her! LOL!

Cath: There was a scene in the movie where the kid was bomb diving into the spa bath. That was a memory making moment I would have missed as a mum, because I would have stepped in too soon, and worried about the mess.  Maybe sometimes a memory is worth the mess??

Christie: I don’t think it was the mess that worried me, it was the chance of him hurting himself that had me grimacing!  But then, I am pretty tolerant of mess!  Fun mess, not domestic mess!

Cath: Did the flying fox in the movie make you grimace, or smile?

Christie: No, I loved the flying fox. Those are the types of things I remember doing as a child.

Cath: Yes, me too.

Christie: I also appreciated the sense of space and freedom that the Dad provided his sons with.

Cath: Do you think the environment they were in contributed to that?  Is it harder to give our kids space and freedom in the city?

Christie: Definitely.

Cath: I think that can be an added pressure on city dads. They hear the negative stuff in the media and they shy away from giving freedom out of their desire to protect their family.

Christie: Maybe, though not in our household, Immy has a lot more freedom and engages in a lot more ‘risky’ behaviour with her Dad than she does when with me, obviously within the limits of her age but things like general proximity of parent to child and rough play, that type of thing.

Cath: My kids do engage in more adventurous behaviour in the backyard with Daddy too!

Christie: You should see them at the pool, he bombies into the pool holding Immy, she loves it!

Cath: As a kid I used to ride to the local milk bar, spend my pocket money on cheap lollies, ride back to the park, climb a tree and eat them. And Dad encouraged it! I’m not sure if my husband will encourage it in quite the same way, just because times have changed.  I guess we’ll see… I did learn to be quite responsible though. With freedom comes responsibility.

Christie: I am interested to know if the movie relate in any way to what Steve Biddulph shared in his presentation?

Cath: Steve Biddulph talks a lot about the stages of a boy’s development. From birth to around 5 he is all Mummy’s. Then he gets a surge of testosterone and becomes Daddy’s little shadow. This lasts right through to early teens, when he needs other male role models around. It was interesting watching the two sons in the two different phases.  Dads need to understand that the Mummy-phase will end, and they need to be ready for it!

Christie: I wonder how you will feel when the Mummy-phase ends! LOL! WIll you be ready for it?

Cath: I hope so… but it will be a learning curve for me too!  Understanding the physiology helps. I know that right now the kind of love I can give will set him up for life, but he needs the different kind of love his dad can give him too in order to be a balanced man (one day). I can’t imagine how hard it is for mums who have to handle the daddy-phase on their own, or dads who have to cope with the mummy-phase…

Christie: If parenting teaches you anything, it is that everything always changes!

Cath: Too true, too true. So will you do anything differently, or view anything differently as a result of the flick?

Christie: I think it is all about balance. Balancing each role and recognising that both mother and father are equally important. And balancing expectations, there are times to relax and have fun but there is also much to be said for structure and routine.

Cath: Absolutely, I completely agree with you there.

Christie: And have as much fun together as you can, that is what families should be about.

Cath: It was a very real movie. It reminded me that life is fragile, and that we all need to enjoy each stage of our family life – as husbands and wives, as parents, as a whole family.


One_Sheet_Mech_TemplateWould you like to see The Boys Are Back yourself?  The first 10 SquiggleMum subscribers to leave a comment below will win.  Too easy!! (Aussie residents only)

Little Apprentice


Our wonderful builders have been here this week, fixing up some dodgy areas on our home.  We do a lot of renovating ourselves, but we know that some jobs are completely beyond us!  Little Miss 3 was fascinated with the builders’ tool belts so we had a go at making one ourselves.

I’m sure if you google it you can find patterns for sewing proper child sized toolbelts, but toddlers aren’t great with waiting to see their ideas come to fruition, and besides – the process is always more important than the final product.  So to make our toolbelt we first rummaged through the recycling looking for small boxes.  Once we found a couple I trimmed them down to size.  We found some calico in the scrap material box and checked to see if it would be long enough to go around my daughter’s waist.  Then I carefully stapled the boxes onto the fabric and tied it on!

She found her own items to put into her toolbelt:  a few of her brother’s play tools, a small measuring tape, some allen keys, a spare door handle… then set off to do some hard yakka with the builders.  But when she got outside, my usually confident child went all shy!  LOL

Innovation on a Washing Basket

toddler translation 1

I’m playing Toddler Translation with Childhood 101 this week, and today’s word is innovation.  Has your child come up with a creative innovation you’d like to share too?

n innovation [inəˈveiʃən]

(the act of making) a change or a new arrangement.

-The Web Dictionary


Washing Basket + Cardboard = AEROPLANE

Step 1 – ask Mum for two cardboard triangles

Step 2 – attach with copious amounts of masking tape

Step 3 – climb in

Step 4 – start your engines and prepare for take off..!

Beanie Bag Games


Recently my son received these gorgeous home made beanie bags as a gift from a friend.  It was such a delightful present that I just had to share.  We have had so much fun with these together.  Here are ten of our favourite games to play with beanie bags:

  1. In and Out – very young ones enjoy the simple pleasure of putting things in and out of boxes and containers.  My 13mth old put the beanie bags in and out of a large plastic bowl, over and over again.
  2. Beanie Toss – to step this up for toddlers, try throwing the beanie bags into the bowl.  Start by standing close, then step away as you achieve success!
  3. Heads Up – little ones are entertained simply by watching you put a beanie bag on your head, or you placing one on theirs.  Toddlers can see how far they can walk with one on their own head – no helping hands!  (Or just pile ‘em up on Mum…)
  4. Body Balance – where else can you balance a beanie bag?  On your foot?  Shoulder?  Elbow?  Knee?
  5. Counting games – my three year old played lots of counting games with our numbered beanie bags.  Counting up to five, back from five, taking away one number and guessing which was missing…
  6. Rainbows – our beanie bags are beautifully coloured so we were able to talk about colours and order our beanies according to the rainbow.  (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue at least)
  7. Hide the Beanies – we had heaps of fun playing this game.  You can do it with any toys really, but the beanie bags were perfect.  One person counts while the other hides the beanie bags.  At first we just hid one, but after a while my daughter wanted to hide all of them!  Older kids still enjoy this too if you set a timer and they race to beat the clock.
  8. Catching – catching an item in midair that is coming right for you is a BIG deal for a toddler.  It’s a skill that takes a while to develop.  Beanie bags are one of the easiest items to use for early catching and throwing practice.  We talked about keeping our eyes on the beanie and our hands ready.  Don’t be surprised if your child doesn’t get it straight away!
  9. Shape and Colour – cut out some simple shapes from paper and put them on the floor.  See if your child can follow instructions to put a green beanie on the triangle.  A yellow beanie on the circle.  You can make it a challenge for older ones with instructions like: can you put a beanie that is NOT yellow on the shape with no straight sides…?  Oohh tricky.
  10. Whack the Stack – stack five cups upside down.  Three on the bottom, then two on top.  Stand a few steps away and throw the beanies at the stack to knock them down.  Older toddlers will enjoy rebalancing the stack too.

Thank you again to the lovely friend who made us these little bags of fun and contributed some of these great game ideas too!


I thought I’d revisit this old post from January, since it is featured in the current edition of Footprints Magazine.  You can become a fan of Footprints on facebook or read their blog here.


I had the most fabulous facial on the weekend. An hour to myself, uninterrupted by a needy baby or a demanding toddler. An hour of quiet bliss. I had not one, not two, but three exfoliations to get my skin glowing. As each mask was applied and then removed, I could almost feel the dirt, tiredness, stress and worry being lifted from my face. By the time it was over I looked better, felt better, and somehow sensed I was lighter than when I walked in.

My heart could sometimes use that kind of treatment. Like the pores on my skin, it’s easy for my heart to become clogged up too. Bitterness, cynicism, selfishness and jealousy sneak into my heart and weigh me down. They make me a duller version of the woman I know I can be.

Exfoliating my skin doesn’t come cheaply and takes a good hour, but exfoliating my heart only takes a few minutes. The Bible tells me that God can cleanse my heart, making it whiter than snow. (Psalm 51:7) All it takes it a genuine apology for the layers to be stripped away. And each time I do it I feel better, and brighter, and sense I am somehow lighter than before.

PS – thank you to that wonderful mum-friend who gave me the voucher for a facial as a birthday gift… everyone should have a friend like you.

The Second Time Around (Parenting Aus)

bellyshotYes, this is me the second time around.  (And no, I can’t believe I’m posting this photo either…)  In comparison to my first pregnancy, the second time I was much bigger, much more tired, and much less fussed over!  Spending time with some of my special mummy friends this week has reminded me of the challenges of second time pregnancy.  (And looking at this photo has reminded me of why twelve months later I still haven’t quite got my body back.  Seriously – this is me at 38wks.  I still had three weeks to go before I was induced!!)

…I often hear mothers who are pregnant the second time around say that they feel like no one has even noticed they are pregnant. I remember feeling exactly the same. My second pregnancy was no less special to me than my first. No less significant, or important or worthy of fuss. But it didn’t cause the same celebration and I found that hard to process…

To read the rest of this post head over to Parenting Australia where I’m blogging today.  Feel free to comment there or here about your own experience.

(But no rude comments about my huge-ness, ok?)