Monday, January 31, 2011


This is the latest game we have added to our board games. Pole Position is a game that allows you to have fun learning about addition and subtraction or to play fast and frantically as you race around the track. The playing track can be built in a number of ways which Master 4 enjoys changing after each game.

From Head to Toe

This is a game of physical activity and charades that will develop your child's self-esteem, independence, decision making skills and confidence. Players flip over cards to see who can do various moves with their bodies "Can you wiggle your hips?" Everyone who answers "I can do it" does the action. This is a great rainy day activity that gets the kids moving indoors.

Alphabet Hunt

When you teach your child the alphabet always remember to make it fun! Teaching the alphabet to your child is the first step to reading and will give your child a positive attitude towards engaging with books and print in the years to come. This is a fun activity that I call "Letter Hunt." Give your child a page with the letters of the alphabet on it(printed or hand written):

  • lower case letters only

  • upper case letters only

  • combination of lower/upper case letters (once confident with letter recognition)

Using a magazine your child can search through the pages looking for letters they recognise, cut them out and paste them on top of the letter on their sheet. This is a fun activity to sit down and do with your child or to set as an independent activity if they are confident with scissor use.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Building Your Child's Self Esteem

Self-esteem comes from having a sense of belonging, believing that we're capable, and knowing our contributions are valued and worthwhile. Like you, nurturing my preschoolers self-esteem seems like a hefty responsibility. After all, a feeling of self-worth lays the foundation for your preschoolers future as he sets out to try new things on his own.

I'd like to share with you something I do each night, just before I kiss the boy's goodnight. Together with each boy I spend a few minutes talking about the day - what they enjoyed or didn't enjoy. I then hand them their personalised "Positive" Box, a hand painted simple white box with meaningful pictures (they chose) from the computer that I printed off and we pasted on together. Inside the box are words that I have chosen to share with them about how they conducted themselves, problem-solved, showed kindness etc in situations on that particular day. I give one word for each year of their life. (Master 2 gets 2 words per night, and Master 4 gets 4 words per night)It is a really lovely way to build your child's self-esteem, discuss in a calm setting any challenges the day presented and also help your child build a wide vocabulary. Since doing this on a nightly basis with my 4 year old since he was two, I have to say that he certainly uses many of the words in his daily vocabulary. Using this box isn't always about praising the boys. I use it also to highlight situations where I felt they have not "given something a go" or "stuck at something". I make sure I have a balance of words (praise and encouragement) in the box. There's a difference between praise and encouragement. One rewards the task while the other rewards the person ("You did it!" rather than "I'm proud of you!"). Praise can make a child feel that he's only "good" if he does something perfectly. Encouragement, on the other hand, acknowledges the effort. "Tell me about your drawing. I see that you like purple" is more helpful than saying, "That's the most beautiful picture I've ever seen." Too much praise can sap self-esteem because it can create pressure to perform and set up a continual need for approval from others. So dole out the praise judiciously and offer encouragement liberally; it will your child grow up to feel good about himself.

Factors affecting children's self esteem

How much the child feels wanted, appreciated and loved

How your child sees himself, often built from what parents and those close say

His or her sense of achievement

How the child relates to others

Your child's self esteem can be increased by you:

Appreciating your child

Telling your child that you love them

Spending time with your child

Encouraging your child to make choices

Fostering independence in your children

Giving genuine importance to your child's opinion and listening

Taking the time to explain reasons

Feeding your child with positive encouragement

Encouraging your child to try new and challenging activities

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Little Bacon and Egg Pies

This morning we visited a friend who has chickens. I love it when we visit her as it is about a 40 minute drive so is always a good chance to chat about where food comes from and play our guessing game of "Name the animal." (I say the food and the boy's have to name the animal that they think the food source comes from) Before I even stop the car the boy's are pointing to the chicken coop ready to collect the waiting eggs. Today we were lucky enough to find six eggs, all of which safely made it home. I thought it was a great chance to re-visit some of our Dr Seuss books, Green Eggs and Ham, and Scrambled Eggs Super.
After reading our books we decided to make quick and simple little Bacon and Egg Pies from our collected eggs. (Fortunately I had all the ingredients in the freezer!)
3 sheets frozen ready-rolled puff pastry, thawed
500g bacon, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup chopped chives
12 eggs

Preheat oven to 200°C.
Lightly grease 12 x 3/4-cup capacity muffin pans.
Cut pastry sheets into circles using a glass.
Gently ease a circle of pastry into each muffin pan.
Cook bacon in a small frying pan over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until light golden. Drain bacon on paper towel and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Place three-quarters of bacon into base of each pastry shell.
Whisk eggs, milk, chives, salt and pepper until well-combined.
Spoon mixture over bacon. (Sprinkle with cheese if you like)
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until pastry is golden and filling is cooked. Allow to stand for 5 minutes before removing from pan. Season and serve hot.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Broken Glass

This simple recipe is so much fun to make with the kids! It is a great little cooking activity to do with them when you are looking at colours.

Preparation Time: 30 minutes +
3 x 85g packets jelly in, red, green, yellow
375ml pineapple juice
1 1/2 tablespoons gelatine or equivalent from the sachets
300ml thickened cream
3 cups hot water

  1. Set jellies individually using 1 cup of hot water with each jelly.
  2. When set, cut into small cubes.
  3. Dissolve gelatine in half the pineapple juice over a gentle heat or for 60 seconds in microwave.
  4. Stir until dissolved. Once dissolved add remaining juice and chill for about 10 minutes. Do not let it set.
  5. Mix pineapple juice with cream and then add cut up jellies.
  6. Rinse jelly mould in water and without drying it pour it all in mould and refrigerate until set.
  7. Cut into small servings and enjoy!

* You can use a Tupperware mould and the jelly comes to the top when set and on a plate it looks like a mosaic of coloured glass.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Boomerang

We all want children to grow up in a world free from bias and discrimination, to reach for their dreams and feel that whatever they want to accomplish in life is possible. We want them to feel loved and included and never to experience the pain of rejection or exclusion. But the reality is that we do live in a world in which racism and other forms of bias continue to affect us. Discrimination hurts and leaves scars that can last a lifetime, affecting goals, ambitions, life choices, and feelings of self-worth.

How can we best prepare children to meet the challenges and reap the benefits of the increasingly diverse world they will inherit? We can raise children to celebrate and value diversity and to be proud of themselves and their family traditions. We can teach children to respect and value people regardless of the color of their skin, their physical abilities, or the language they speak.

As our nation grows increasingly diverse, there has never been a better opportunity for us to learn to live respectfully together and benefit from one another's wisdom and experiences. But sometimes fear, uncertainty, or discomfort prevent people from talking to each other. This is especially true when it comes to the topics of race and racism, cultural differences, language and bilingualism, and the myriad questions that arise in a world where these issues have such a powerful place in children's lives.

My children are immersed in their father's Maori culture, but we still see it as very important that we raise our kids knowing about world cultures, which hopefully will help them appreciate the differences in people and their traditions.

Ways in which you can celebrate other cultures within your family:

  • Read picture books about different cultures and compare their cultures to your own. Here are some books that might be useful:
    Children from Australia to Zimbabwe: A Photographic Journey Around the Worldby Maya Ajmera, Anna Rhesa Versola, Marian Wright Edelman
    Houses and Homes (Around the World Series)by Ann Morris, Ken Heyman (Illustrator), Ken Hayman (Photographer)
    Children Just Like Meby Susan Elizabeth Copsey, Barnabas Kindersley, Anabel Kindersley, Harry Belafonte
    Hands Around the World: 365 Creative Ways to Encourage Cultural Awareness and Global Respect (Williamson Kids Can! Series)by Susan Milord
    Celebrations Around the World: A Multicultural Handbookby Carole S. Angell
    Children Just Like Me: Celebrations!by Anabel Kindersley (Contributor), Barnabas Kindersley (Photographer)

  • Cook Authentic Recipes - doesn't have to be anything special. We have nachos on Mexican night, Fried Rice on Chinese Night, Sushi on Japanese night, Cornish Pasties on English night, Seafood on New Zealand night. We have lots of fun doing this and have incorporated it into our family night. A book that may help you with recipe ideas is The Kids' Multicultural Cookbook: Food & Fun Around the World (Williamson Kids Can! Series) written by Deanna F. Cook and illustrated by Michael P. Kline.

  • Get Crafty - try to do some different types of crafts with your children from cultures around the world. The Kids' Multicultural Art Book: Art & Craft Experiences from Around the World (Williamson Kids Can! Series) written by Alexandra M. Terzian

  • Map It Out - Print a world map and use push pins to illustrate where the country's located.
    Every time you learn about a new country, use another push pin on your world map. See how many countries she can visit.

  • Make a small booklet to serve as her passport. The pages should be blank on the inside. That way, you can draw, use a sticker or glue a picture of the country's flag to stamp the pages of her passport as she "travels" from country to country to learn about world cultures.
Did you know that in Argentina it is considered rude if you yawn? How about that in India if you shake your head slowly from side to side it means "yes" instead of "no."

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Echidna and the Shade Tree

The boy's had lots of fun making Echidna's with playdough and craft match sticks. Playdough is always a great opportunity to develop fine motor skills.

I love giving the boy's different tools to paint with, so painting spikes on an Echidna seemed the perfect opportunity to use cotton buds. Master 4 drew himself an Echidna after reading the story and then used a cotton tip to create spikes. I didn't have any brown paint so we used some of my foundation!! I'm all about using whatever you can around the house for craft activities!!

The Echidna is a strange and fascinating animal that calls Australia home. The Echidna is a rare mammal that lays eggs, and it resembles a porcupine with large, pointy spines protruding from their backs. My boy's really enjoyed creating their own Echidnas after reading The Echidna and The Shade Tree.
The first exposure I had to Aboriginal picture books was through the series of books compiled by Pamela Lofts. I remember these from when I was at primary school. Published in 1980, even then I could tell that these books were pretty revolutionary: simply told traditional Aboriginal stories illustrated and told by Aboriginal people. I think they still work beautifully today, and I’ve hunted down some copies for my boys: How The Birds Got Their Colours by May Albert and Pamela Lofts and The Echidna and the Shade Tree by Mona Green and Pamela Lofts.

Edward The Emu

I like the days leading up to celebrating Australia Day as it is the perfect opportunity to read some great books about Australian animals. Two of our favourite books are, Edward the Emu and Edwina the Emu both written by Sheena Knowles & Rod Clement.

Tired of being just an Emu, Edward decides to try being like other animals at the zoo. He wants to be noticed and in his quest for attention, Edward imitates many other animals. He soon discovers that being himself is the best animal of all. This book allows for lots of fun learning that you can do with your little one.

  • Discuss the animals’ enclosures as
    Edward visits them all.

  • What shapes can you find in the book?
    Circles for eyes, diamond teeth. Draw the
    shapes. How many objects in your
    classroom are also these shapes?

  • Symmetry: Look at the patterns on the
    snake’s skin

  • Make some snakes with play dough, great for fine motor skills.

  • How many animals were involved in this quest of Edward’s?
    Talk about: ‘next morning’, ‘today’, ‘that night’. Also talk about the times used in the book
    e.g. ‘morning at nine’

  • Edward is a unique creature to look at. Facts like emus can’t fly, they have very
    strong legs, make funny grunting noises and can run very fast.

What's the perfect job for an emu? The wonderful sequel to Edward the Emu is Edwina the Emu. Now, we all know what happened after Edward met his mate Edwina, little emus of course! But with a completely modern challenge for their mother, hilarity is bound to happen as Edwina goes job searching while Edward stays on the nest.

Make this super cute emu using a paper plate, pipe cleaners and bits of any brown paper or material that you have in your craft box!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Helping children affected by Natural Disasters

As I sit watching the devastation unfold before my eyes from the floods here in Queensland, I'm thinking about the enormity of what lies ahead for the people, not only physically, but also emotionally. Adults will find it difficult to recover from this experience, but for many children it will be extremely traumatic.

Children surviving natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis have several challenges to cope with. They suffer trauma from loosing friends, family members, homes and possessions and witnessing devastation in their communities. These children along with their families and communities also face the further threat of disease and illness due to shortages of food, clean water, shelter and poor hygiene conditions.

Adults are traumatized by the loss and uncertainty that disasters cause their families, communities and themselves. As a result, their sadness and stress may cause them to forget about children’s need for love, affection and security. In crisis situations, parents, family members, community leaders, health workers, and teachers are important sources of support for children.

What important information should adults know to help children cope with natural disasters?

  • All children react differently to crisis situations. Some may withdraw and become very quiet. Others may appear to be coping well but inside may be feeling hurt, sad and scared. The stress of crisis situations may also cause some children to become more aggressive.

  • In crisis and emergency situations children need constant love, affection, security and hope that the situation will improve. Try to avoid punishing or scolding children during this time as this may add to the suffering they are going through.

  • Play and sporting activities are one of the best ways for children to deal with stress.

  • Both boys and girls can promote good hygiene and safety practices, illness prevention, and provide emotional support to both children and adults.

  • Some children may question why disasters happen or feel guilty or responsible for the problem. Adults should spend time listening and talking to them about their feelings during and even months after the disaster.

What can adults do to help the children?

  • Try to give children regular routines again so that they feel secure and stable. Set times for going to school, eating, playing and sleeping.

  • Create a safe and clean area for children to play with one another.

  • For children who may not be able to attend school, spend a few minutes each day to tell or read them stories or play simple counting games.

  • Reassure children that their lives will be re-built and improved. Also discuss how the children themselves can help others so that they feel part of the solution and empowered to take action.

  • Make sure, however, that children are not burdened to take on responsibilities that adults should be doing or tasks that would put them in harm.

  • Talk to other adults in the family or community about ways to support children’s emotional health and well-being.

  • If adults need to leave the children to go somewhere, tell them where they are going, when they will be back, and who will care for them so the children do not feel insecure or frightened.

  • Spend time with children comforting them, talking to them, singing to them or telling them stories regularly.

  • If children react severely to stress for a long time, seek help from a counselor or someone who knows how to help children.

String Painting

With all the storms about I have been talking to the boy's about why we are having so much
rain and why we have lightning and thunder. Today we were talking about the lightening we had seen in the sky the other night and how there were lots of different colours. I decided to do get the boys to do some string painting to make a "lightning" picture.

Put some paint in old meat trays or paper plates and give your child a piece of string. Give your little one as big a piece of paper that you can find to paint on. Show your little one how to take the string and streak it or twirl it around on their page. Once the colour is done give your little one the next colour, this will prevent him from mixing all the colours and ending up with a brown page.

Paint splattering activities like this are so much fun and great for the development of your child's senses. By playing with paint, touching it and learning its texture your child is developing the tiny muscles and also creativity, imagination, hand-eye co-ordination and motor skills.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

School Lunchbox Ideas

School Lunch Box Ideas
Children need to eat a variety of foods everyday to stay healthy, so it is important to pack their lunch box with foods that are good for them and taste great too.

A lunchbox should always include:

  • At least 2 pieces of fruit (fresh, dried or tinned)
  • At least 1 serve of dairy food such as yoghurt, milk or cheese
  • At least 3-4 serves carbohydrate-rich foods such as bread, crispbread, grain and fruit based bars, pasta, etc.
Here are some healthy lunch, snack and drink ideas to fill their lunch boxes.

Lunch Box Lunches
  • Bagel with Vegemite and cheese
  • English breakfast muffins with tomato and cheese
  • Pita bread with peanut butter, grated carrot and cheese
  • Corn or rice cakes with peanut butter
  • Cold pasta spirals mixed with salad vegetables and lean ham
  • Mini pizza with cheese and pineapple
  • Sandwiches with various fillings such as:
    o Vegemite and cheese
    o Lettuce, grated carrot and cheese
    o Peanut butter
    o Tuna/chicken/ham with mayonnaise
    o Avocado or cream cheese and salad
    Hint: cut sandwiches into different shapes for younger children and vary the bread from day to day, eg. white, wholemeal, rye, bagel.
Lunch Box Snacks
  • Fresh, dried or tinned fruit or fruit salad – bananas, apples, pears, mandarins, nectarines, grapes, sultanas, dried apples or apricots
  • Uncle Tobys grain and fruit based bars
  • Grissini sticks (thin Italian bread sticks) with cheese dip
  • Crackers with spread
  • Plain popcorn
  • Fruit muffins or fruit loaf
  • Cheese sticks
  • Yoghurt
    Hint: freeze yoghurt overnight to prevent bacterial growth
  • Carrot and celery sticks with cheese dip
  • Sultana and peanut mix or mixed nuts
  • Small can of baked beans or spaghetti
  • Creamed rice with fruit
  • Hard boiled egg
  • Pikelets or scones
Lunch Box Drinks
  • Water
  • 100% Fruit juices or vegetable juices
  • Flavoured or plain milk (Longlife)
    Hint: frozen water or tetra packs can be used as a freezer brick to keep foods cold such as yoghurt and meat.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Family Resilience

How to Build A Family That Can Survive Anything
As we welcome in the New Year today I'm sitting here reflecting on the year that has passed, and like all of you, I have had ups and downs and tears and laughter. Friends and family too have shared in my joy and my sorrow throughout the past year. Life's journey throws so many things in our path that at times it can be difficult to believe that "it will get better." Emerging from difficult or stressful situations can make us a stronger person in so many ways. I'm a true believer that Resilience plays a big role in determining how we cope with the challenges set for us in this coming year. None of us know what the year ahead brings, but building Family Resilience can provide the safety blanket we may just need.
Family resilience is something I think we all strive for. Once upon a time, setbacks and trauma were thought to leave scars on a family that might never heal. Today, there is a much greater understanding of the growth that comes out of adversity. Although each of our families are unique, it appears that resilient families have some things in common. They communicate clearly and effectively, teach problem-solving, manage conflict well and provide a sense of belonging and non-critical support. Placed in a situation, we are often able to manage more than we think. If you find yourself in a stressful situation in the year ahead try to consider the following tips:
Behaviour Changes
Very young children can pick up on signs that things are not right. In difficult times keep an eye on your child for signs of worry that can't be put into words. If his behaviour changes, he regresses to previous stages, becomes clingy or starts wetting the bed, he may be feeling the pressure. Try using play, art or pretend games to express what he can't.
Pull Together
When things get bumpy the key is to pull together. Use your family as a security blanket for your children and make sure you have family time. It is especially important to have time playing about, playing games, reading to them, or just snuggling down.
Keep Your Routines
You child may be less able to handle change when he is going through a rough time. Keep bed times, reading times, feeding routines as close to normal as possible.
Answer their Questions
Be careful about information overload with your little one.I find a good rule on how much to tell them is to give out the absolute basics and be guided by their questions. Answer them simply and honestly, no matter how off-base they are.
Setbacks Build Strength
We would all like to wrap our kids in cotton wool, but save it for removing your make-up. Giving your child the confidence to overcome small setbacks is the key. Young children who experience something difficult or scary, and have over come this may need reminding of the situation and how brave they were and that they can overcome it again if need be. Being resilient does not mean that children won't experience difficulty or stress. You as the parent can help your child realise that emotional pain and sadness are normal in some situations. Resiliency is about bouncing back, not avoiding emotions.
Don't Forget Fun
Even when things seem really bleak, don't forget to have fun. You may think it is inappropriate to plan something fun or be sill when one of your family are sick or even dying, but the exact opposite is true. Everyone copes better after having a laugh. Fun helps with perspective - that sense that there is a good future beyond the current situation.
Rely On Others
Some situations tax every bit of resilience we have and are too stressful to face alone. Turn to close friend's with whom you can confide in and trust. Accept their offers of support and help.
I truly believe that resilience is within all of us, and that we can emerge from difficult situations stronger than we were before. Resilience is a choice.