Monthly Archives: January 2011

Ribbon Sticks

I’m not exactly sure who came up with the idea of ribbon sticks. Red Ribbon Dances were performed for Chinese Royalty thousands of years ago, but I suspect ribbon sticks have a heritage in more than one culture. Ribbon dancing still has a place today in contemporary gymnastics.

Wherever they have come from, there is something beautiful and creative about playing with ribbon sticks. At a time when hi-tech toys rule the toybox, it’s delightful to see children playing with such a simple object.

Step 1: Collect a bunch of ribbons.

Step 2: Tie the bunch with a piece of ribbon. Leave long ends on the tying ribbon.

Step 3: Wrap the tying ribbon ends around the stick, securing the bunch to the stick.

Step 4: Play. Dance. Swoosh. Twirl. Dream. Fly.

Have you made ribbon sticks with your children? I know the Irresistible Ideas ladies have made them with their preschoolers. I’d love to hear if you have too!  Do you prefer them inside, or out? Do your children dance with or without music?

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

Hi-5 Happy House Review

The latest release from Hi-5 has hit the shelves for January, and thanks to my friends at Roadshow I have THREE copies to give away to SquiggleMum readers. The album is full of boppy songs, bright colours, great costumes and lots of dancing.  The title track, Happy House makes for a catchy opening, and my kids have been singing this one around the house.

My favourite track though is Backyard Adventurers. We do a fair bit of backyard adventuring here at our house!  I appreciate songs that encourage kids to get outside. It would be great to see this with footage of kids (or the Hi-5 Team) actually in a backyard and out of the studio!  I’m still not fussed on a lot of the dialogue. I’d love to see the Hi-5 team move to more natural sounding language, and speak “to” the children rather than “at” them.  Still, the album is enjoyable, and my own kids have had fun singing and dancing along with the colourful gang.

The Squiggle Report:

Like - Happy House, Backyard Adventurers, the girls’ shoes!!

Dislike - dialogue patronising at times

SquiggleKids rating: 4/5

SquiggleMum rating: 3/5

WIN a copy

To win a copy of Hi-5’s latest release leave a comment below sharing what makes your home a happy house!  Aussie residents only please. One entry per person.  Comp closes 6pm Qld time Sunday 30/1/11 and winners will be drawn at random.

I received a copy of Happy House compliments of Roadshow.


This competition has now closed.

Congrats to the random winners Jodie, Funkymunkees and Simone!

Children's Drawings

Children’s drawings are

sometimes predictable

sometimes remarkable

sometimes lovable

sometimes laughable.

Drawings can reveal

what they think

what they feel

what they imagine

what they fear.

Drawings can reflect understanding of

little things

big things


and nothings.

For me, this drawing on a scrap of paper encompasses much of the above.

Can you guess what it is??

I’ll update the post tomorrow to give you the answer…

*   *   *   *   *

Update: 21/1/11

This drawing has been an excellent reminder to me that children often understand more than we give them credit for, and see things from a more advanced perspective than we expect.  The sophistication of this picture by my 4 year old took me by surprise.  The drawing is a radar map showing the current rainfall and approaching storm conditions according to the Bureau of Meteorology.  If you look closely you can see two flowery stickers.  The smaller blue flower on the left is the marker for our home, and the larger flower sticker on the right marks the city.  The yellow colouring indicates light rain (and flooding), the pale blue indicates heavier rain (and flooding), and the orange and black section is the area of severe flooding around the CBD.  The dark blue on the right is a storm cell approaching.  The black circles are showing that there is hail in the storm.  (There were no storms at the time, but approaching storms are the most common reason we check the radar).

On top of all that, this drawing is competely purposeful.  Why did my daughter draw it?  Because my Dad was staying with us.  He couldn’t get home due to landslides on the road, and he had to drive from our place into the city during the flood crisis.  Miss 4 gave the map to her Pa to make sure he would be safe on his drive into the CBD.

As a teacher I often found that purpose driven, child initiated communications were by far the most impressive pieces my students produced.  As a mother I am finding exactly the same thing.

Preparing for Big School

My big girl is counting down the sleeps.  This morning we went to get her uniform and shoes, and she starts Prep (Qld) in just over a week!  She is so delighted with her new uniform that she can’t take her eyes off her own reflection!!  There are still a few things we need to do, and then of course there is all the labelling.  As a teacher I know how important it is to name everything.

I’m grateful that I don’t have to buy a new backpack or lunch box, as I received a fabulous school pack from Kmart*. (Thank you!)  The backpack, lunch cooler bag and lunchbox will be especially useful, and Miss 4 is delighted with all her new “school things”.  Kmart certainly do offer good value for money when it comes to basics for school.  The backpack + lunch cooler + pencil case = $8.  Bargain.

Of course, making sure all the “stuff” is purchased and labelled is only part of preparing to start school.  This week we’ll also be trying to get into a school-like routine.  We’ll start getting ready in the mornings as if it’s a school day, and have morning tea and lunch at predictable times.  Since we have the new lunchbox and cooler bag we’ll try those out too, and make sure Miss 4  can independently manage everything.   And, while we’re enjoying the last week of holidays together, I’ll spend a little extra time focusing on turn taking, using manners, and good listening.

Do you have a child starting school, or returning to school in the coming weeks? What are you doing to prepare them?

*I received the items pictured above courtesy of Kmart.

Brisbane Floods – The Aftermath

The waters are already receding and the cleanup has begun, but the effects of this disaster will be felt for a long time.  I hadn’t intended to post again about the 2011 Brisbane floods.  However, I have had requests from readers across Australia and around the world!

My supermarket shelves!

Whether you have a four year old or a fourteen year old, they are probably asking you the same question: Why?  Some whys are easy to answer…

  • Why is the news on all day?
  • Why isn’t Dad going to work?
  • Why is the power off?
  • Why are the supermarket shelves empty?!

Some whys are harder…

  • Why do people build houses where it floods?
  • Why is it flooding on a sunny day?
  • Why didn’t the dam stop the flood?
  • Why did some people die?

Some whys are difficult, even for us…

  • Why couldn’t we save everyone?
  • Why do we have to have floods?
  • Why does God let bad things happen?

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.

My 2yr old son understands only a little of what is going on.  He has seen television footage (hard not to here in Brisbane) and talks about the river.  “River. House in river. Oh mess! More river. Truck in river. Oh dear. Mess!”  He followed his sister’s lead when they played floods earlier this week, and his focus was mostly on, you guessed it, the river.  I have simply explained to him that we need to make the river “all safe” again and fix the mess.

My 4yr old understands more and is asking lots of questions.  She asks about our friends and family (particularly her aunty), and whether they are safe.  She needs reassurance that our home will not flood.  She wants to pray about kids whose toys and clothes washed away.  She processes through play, rescuing people and rebuilding cities in her roleplay.  I am careful though to protect her from some information and some of the distressing television footage.  This is part of my job as her mother.  I have to know which things will be too much for her to deal with.

My sister's suburb

One thing that can help children of all ages to process the aftermath of a disaster, is to give them a practical opportunity to respond.  If your child is upset about other kids having muddy bedrooms, for example, ask them what they would like to do about it.  Young kids might like to donate some of their toys to charity, or to a specific evacuation centre.  Primary aged kids might like to donate some of their pocket money, or spend some of their money on a new toy for another child.  Local teens might like the opportunity to get in and help another family clean out the mud.  Other teens might be prompted to come up with a fundraising idea.  Letter writing is another great practical way for kids of all ages to respond.  You might help your child to write an email asking for change, post a letter of thanks, or send a drawing to give encouragement.

Most of us have been indirectly affected by the flooding.  If your family has been directly affected, or your child is having difficulty dealing with this disaster, I would strongly suggest that you seek counselling.

1.  Know your child

2.  Acknowledge their questions, answer appropriately if you can, and admit it if you can’t.

3.  Help your child to respond according to their age and understanding.

*   *   *   *   *

How have your kids been affected by the flooding in Queensland (and beyond)?  Have they asked lots of questions?  What other ideas do you have for responding in practical ways??

Brisbane Floods – Processing through Play

This week hasn’t gone as I planned.  It hasn’t gone as anyone in Brisbane planned. How do you plan for a once-in-a-hundred-year event?

Today, 75% of the state of Queensland has been declared a disaster zone, with flooding widespread, deaths confirmed and many people still missing.  It is a grim day in this beautiful part of the world.  The Brisbane River is swelling… spilling over its banks and swallowing our capital city.  The river’s peak is due to hit at 4am and inundate thousands of homes and businesses.  Many Brisbane residents will get little sleep tonight.

Our home is high and dry on a hill, and safely away from the river so we will not be directly affected.  But I wonder – will anyone in Brisbane (in fact, in Queensland) not be affected by this disaster?

24hr rolling coverage is on all stations on the tv, so the kids have seen many images of our city in crisis.  My sister is very close to the rising waters, and we are all keeping a close watch on details for her area.  Her power is cut for safety reasons, along with 120,000+ other homes, so we are doing our best to keep her up to date on the unfolding events.  My Dad had to spend the night with us too as all roads to my folks’ place were cut.  Despite not seeing any floodwater in real life, my children are very aware of what is going on.

Today the kids played “floods” together.  They set up roads and bridges and traintracks, then covered much of the landscape with a blue scarf.  They had people stranded at one end, and built a hospital at the other.  They flew a duplo helicopter from one end to the other, rescuing those in trouble and taking them to the “very strong and stable and high up” hospital.

I stopped for a moment to consider their play.  I know that the reality of the situation is less black and white.  I know that real people have lost their lives in this disaster.  I know that this flood will impact communities in ways beyond my children’s understanding.  But I didn’t discourage them.  Why?  Because play is part of their way of processing. They are making sense of the situation in their own way, and trying to understand the world around them.  Their play is a healthy response.

I hope that this is all they will have to process. We’ll see what the morning brings…

(image source)

Playscape: Nature Cubby

This year I am working hard to improve our backyard, and create a playscape rich in natural opportunities for learning, discovering, playing and growing.

When we added our Dirt Kitchen to the backyard last year, you might remember that I started training a vine into a roof of sorts.  Here’s an image of it in August, 2010:

It was growing so well that it began to weigh the strings down, so I started thinking about ways to prop it up. Then wandering the aisles at Bunnings (as you do…) I found this arch for under $10.  I figured it was worth a try, and it turns out it was perfect for the job. I didn’t want it to be the full height, so I just left a few pieces off.  Then I went back to Bunnings and bought a second one!!

Look at it now!! With all the rain we’ve had in Brisbane, most plants have seen rapid growth.  Instead of just a roof, now we have a whole nature cubby growing.  Every day we see new growth, and the kids and I are enjoying winding the tendrils around the arches to create our walls and roof.  That “shady space” I said I was dreaming of back in August is looking like a reality – and all for the grand sum of $20. Bargain.

Stay tuned for more posts about our nature cubby, this interesting vine, and the creatures that are making this cubby house their home.

PS – I’ve updated my About page with heaps of new info including my values, where you can find me, a photo gallery and more. Check it out!!

Bent Out Of Shape

It’s the first day of the new year.  Wow, 2011.  Today we have been packing away the tree and all the Christmasy things we’ve been using throughout December.

Every year I use an old recipe passed down through my husband’s family to bake Christmas bickies.  As I returned the  Christmas shaped cutters to the back of the baking drawer I noticed that some of them were bent out of shape.  I squeezed the sides of the metal carefully, pushing them back into place.  (Undoubtedly the result of the kids “helping” with the baking!)  As I fiddled with the heart shaped cutter, evening up the two sides and getting it to look right again, I couldn’t help but draw the obvious metaphor.

Did your heart get bent out of shape over Christmas, or during the past year?  What do you need to do to get it balanced up again at the start of this new year?  Do you need to forgive someone?  Let go of a hurt?  Or perhaps you just need to take some time to look after yourself?

I’m not big on new year’s resolutions, but I am big on a making fresh start each year.  If you ask me, getting your heart right is guaranteed to help you start the year afresh.

PS – I’m taking a little time off from the online world, but will be back with you all shortly! xx