Saturday, February 26, 2011

Chocolate Nests

I love making these super cute Chocolate Nests to give to family and friends at Easter time.

To make them you need
  • 1 packet of Chang's Crispy Fried Noodles (you get these from the supermarket in Australia)... I'm sure there are other brands of fried noodles you could use in UK or USA.
  • 200g chocolate, dark or milk
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • Sugar coated eggs, Cadbury's Mini Eggs look all pretty and pastel, or M&M eggs.


  • Melt chocolate over water, or in the microwave

  • Stir in peanut butter and noodles
  • Put teaspoonfuls on trays lined with baking paper
  • Top with eggs
  • Refrigerate

The Best Nest

The boys each a bag and we headed outside on a bush walk to observe birds and to collect materials for their bird's nests. The boys collected, grass, soft paper, string, leaves, yarn, leaves, and thin twigs.

This activity provided such a wonderful opportunity for language development. The boys talked lots about why they chose certain materials e.g "This big piece of bark I'm putting in will protect the eggs from the wind and rain." "I chose these twigs because they look like the tree that a nest could be in, that way a vulture will think it is a normal tree, it's hibernating."

Rolling eggs with play dough is great for fine-motor skill development.

Making a Bird Nest

Materials Needed:

  • Brown Play dough, Clay or shredded string

  • Outdoor materials- collected by your child on your walk

  • Toothpick (to write their name and date underneath) if you use clay

  • bags

  • Play dough

Preschoolers are natural scientists. This morning I decided we would have a day learning about bird, nests and habitats. I gave the boys each a bag and we headed outside on a bush walk to observe birds and to collect materials for their bird's nests. The boys collected, grass, soft paper, string, leaves, yarn, leaves, and thin twigs.

Once back home I gave the boys some brown shredded paper string I had picked up from the discount store in the craft section (you could also use play dough or clay prepared the night before) The brown shredded string will represent the mud for this craft. I showed the boys how to shape the string into a bowl-like configuration. Next, they used their fists to push the center of the "nest" in, and gently pull the sides up. With a preschool craft, it is always best if each work of art is different so I went with the shape that they made for their nest! Then I had the boys use the outdoor materials they collected to stick into the string. Then the boys used some play dough to roll some eggs to put inside their nest. This was a wonderful activity rich in language development as well as science. The boys are so proud of their nests and will definitely take pride of place on our Easter shelf!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Yummy Pancakes

Mix a pancake, stir a pancake,
Pop it in a pan.
Fry a pancake, toss a pancake,
Catch it if you can.

Do you celebrate Pancake Tuesday in your house? We definitely do, and each year our pancakes become bigger and the toppings more elaborate.Each year I read a couple of my favourite "Pancake" themed books to the boys before we get busy in the kitchen.

Mr. Wolf fancies some tasty pancakes, but he doesn't know how to make them and has trouble reading the Wolf It Down Recipe Book. Asking his neighbors is no use—Chicken Little, Wee Willy Winkle, the Gingerbread Man, Little Red Riding Hood, and the Three Little Pigs all nastily refuse. Poor Mr. Wolf has to work it out all by himself. I LOVE this book, along with the rest of
Jan Fearnley's and look forward to reading it to the boys on Pancake Tuesday each year. Here is our pancake recipe:

115g plain flour,
pinch of salt,
1 large egg (beaten),
1 tbsp melted butter or sunflower oil,
300ml milk,
butter or oil for frying

1.Sift flour and salt into a bowl,make a well in the centre,add the egg and half the milk.
2.Beat the ingredients together,then whisk in the remaining milk along with the melted butter
or oil.
3.Heat a little oil in a frying pan, pour in enough batter to to evenly cover the base.
4.Cook for about 1 minute, toss the pancake over and cook the other side until golden.
5.Top with sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice.
6. You can try many different topping, maple syrup,chocolate and whipped cream or even try some
savoury ones too!

Get out all of the measuring spoons, cups, and materials you will need in advance, and then show your child how to measure the ingredients to make pancake batter. While measuring, make comparisons between one cup and 1/4 cup, or estimate how much a teaspoon is - and then measure it to see if you guessed correctly. Invite your child to feel, smell, and taste the individual ingredients -- like flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, etc. Examining the various colours and textures teaches useful science skills. Count and add as you put the appropriate number of tablespoons or cups in the batter. These activities develop the foundation necessary to learn more complex math skills

Don't just eat pancakes this year, try some of these fun Pancake Activities and Crafts
  • Give each member of the family a frypan/plastic plate and place a pancake on it. Set the microwave for one minute and see how many times each person can flip their pancake!
  • Set a frypan on the floor/on the grass and from a distance see how many of the five pancakes each family member can toss into the pan!
  • Download these free alphabet Pancakes Cards. Laminate and cut out and play some letter recognition games.
  • Pancake Finger Paint
    Put some plain pancake batter on a paper or plastic plate. Add a drop of red food coloring and let your child mix it into the batter with his/her fingers. Make fun designs in the batter. Add a drop of yellow food colour or blue food colour. What colour does the batter turn? This is a great way to introduce primary colors and how combining them makes other colours. Talk about how the batter feels - is it cold, squishy, smooth? Add some syrup to the mix and see if the texture changes - is it sticky? Don't forget to remind the kids that this batter is a science and art experiment - it's not for eating!
  • Fill a squirt bottle with some watered down pancake mix and let your child squirt some letter "P"s for Pancake on a large piece of paper. If your child's fine motor skills are still developing in the skill of using a squirt bottle, give them a paint brush and you could pre-write letter Ps and let them trace over.

If you think you can't have pancakes because you have allergies to dairy, think again!

Crushed Egg Shell Art

I remember finding this book last year and just loved sharing it with the children I taught, and now with my own boys. For me, the real appeal of a Jan Brett book is her detailed illustrations. She draws the bunnies realistically, adding warm smiles on their faces. I always enjoy Jan Brett's books, especially her holiday stories. This story is perfect for little one's between 3-6 as it sends a good message - kindness. I love that she puts extra information in the small side pictures or in the scenes at the top of the pages, giving children a chance to see some action going on in the background or giving a preview of what's to come next. It's always fun to see how and where she has inserted her favourite animal (the hedgehog) into each of her books. The brilliant colours make her illustrations almost jump off the page - a nice contrast to her usual gentle story lines. I fell in love with this sweet bunny the first time I read through the book, as did my boys, and I'm sure you will too!

What you need:

12 coloured eggs
PVA glue
card stock

  • Colour dye a dozen eggs, even leaving a few white.

  • Let the eggs dry and then peel the shell. Make sure the shell is dry before you put it all into a zip lock bag and crush.

  • Draw an image on a piece of card using PVA Glue.

  • Sprinkle the crushed egg shell on the glue to create an egg-tastic picture.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Finger Paint Fun

Finger painting is fun for kids of all ages. These recipes are easy to make and require few materials. They will provide lots of art activities for your toddler.These recipes would work well for a play date or a rainy day activity. Finger painting is a wonderful way to enhance fine motor skills. You can also use finger painting activities to help teach concepts such as shapes, colours, or numbers.

Basic Finger Paint
This finger paint recipe is great for all ages, even young toddlers who still put things in their mouths. Mix together one cup flour and one and a half teaspoons of salt. Add one cup of water and mix together. Add your choice of food coloring. It will have a gritty texture.
Use this finger paint for just about any activity. It is great for little ones just to get the feel of the paint on their hands. Allow students to experiment with it and have them put their hand prints on the paper, or have them paint circles all over the paper.
Laundry Soap Finger Paint
This recipe is a fun one to use. It is probably better suited for older toddlers and preschoolers. Make sure children keep their hands away from their eyes. Pour laundry detergent into a small amount of water. Mix using an electric mixer or egg beater. It will have a thick consistency. Add any color tempera paint and mix well. This finger paint recipe is great to use on finger paint paper because of its thicker consistency.

Pudding Finger Paint
This is a fun option for all ages, even young toddlers. It is safe to eat. Make pudding according to package directions. If you want different colors, make vanilla and mix food coloring in.
Spoon the pudding out in bowls or pie tins and allow your students to create their pudding pictures. One fun activity to do with pudding paint is to have children paint their pictures on wax paper. While it is still wet, take a piece of Manila paper and press it on the wax paper.

Ready to Use Finger Paint
Shaving cream makes a wonderful finger paint for older toddlers and preschoolers. Just make sure no one ingests any. Simply squeeze out some shaving cream onto a table or desk top. Allow students to use their hands and create pictures with it. An added bonus to using shaving cream as finger paint is that it cleans the tables and desk tops.

Mix It Up
These mix in ideas are an excellent opportunity to teach about textures. For a rough texture, mix uncooked rice into your finger paint. For a smooth, slippery texture, mix in dish washing liquid soap. For a grainy texture, mix in coffee grounds. For a sticky texture, mix in corn syrup. The corn syrup will also have a super shiny finish when it dries.

Jelly Crystals
Place some jelly crystals into a container and mix it with some water. The mixture is around 1/3 water and 2/3 Jelly Crystals. But it’s really all up to you. This works well as a wash over a picture drawn with pastels first.

3 cups water, 1 cup cornstarch, food coloring
In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Dissolve cornstarch in a separate bowl with water. Remove boiling water from heat and add cornstarch mixture. Return to heat, stirring constantly. Boil until the mixture is clear and thick (about 1 minute). Remove from heat.
As the mixture is cooling, divide into separate bowls and add food coloring. Let the children carefully mix in the coloring.

Salt and Flour Finger Paint
2 c. flour
2 tsp. salt
3 c. cold water
2 c. hot water
Food coloring
Add the salt to the flour in a saucepan. Pour in cold water gradually and beat the mixture with an egg beater until smooth. Add the hot water and boil the mixture until it becomes glossy. Beat it until it is smooth. Mix in food coloring.

Soap Powder Finger Paint Recipe with Talcum
1/2 Cup liquid starch
3 Cups water
1/4 Cup soap powder (not detergent)
1/4 Cup talcum powder
powdered paint
Mix soap and water in a saucepan, then add starch. Stir until soap powder is dissolved. Bring to a boil and cook until clear. Remove from heat and add paint and talcum. Using a mixer beat until it is smooth and foamy. Store air tight in refrigerator.

Rice Finger Paint Recipe
Mix baby rice cereal with water and food colouring or use cooked cereals with colouring.

Sweetened Condensed Milk Finger Paint
Sweetened condensed milk
Food coloring or brightly colored fruit juice
Pour a small amount of sweetened condensed milk into several small bowls. Mix in a few drops of food coloring in each bowl to create a variety of colors. Help your toddler use the coloured sweetened condensed milk to paint on newspaper, butcher paper, or craft paper.

Alternatives to Food Colouring
Some parents may prefer to avoid food coloring because their toddler is allergic to it or because they want to use more natural ingredients.
Red - cherry juice, raspberry juice, cranberry juice
Blue - blueberry juice
Yellow - dried turmeric
Health food stores may carry vegetable based food coloring.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Lolly Cake

Lolly Cake in New Zealand is a national institution! A lolly cake or lolly log is a New Zealand cake which features "lollies" in the ingredients. It is fun to make and even better to eat! We had a 1st Birthday to go to today of a little New Zealand friend so the boys and I decided to take a plate along to share.

100 g butter, melted
250 g (1 packet) malt biscuits, crushed
1/2 tin (200g) sweetened condensed milk
180 g (1 packet) fruit puffs,
* If you live on the Sunshine Coast, Fruit Puffs available at Sunshine Food Wharehouse, 224 Nickilin Way, Warana.

Mix together butter, biscuits, condensed milk and fruit puffs(cut into half pieces). Shape into a log and roll in coconut. Refrigerate until firm and then slice into rounds.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Mixed-Up Chameleon

Eric Carle has a beautiful way of telling stories that touch the heart and teach valuable lessons and this story is no different. This is a great book that reinforces a strong message to children. I read this book every year in my classroom during the first week of school when I was teaching. It is a great book to use when focusing on the colours, as well as the story's value that lies in the message that everyone is unique and special. The kind of responses that your child will offer in response to this high-quality piece of literature will amaze you.

I used this book with Master 2 as he has a fascination with all animals. We came across a chameleon in another book recently and Master 2 has since been looking everywhere, in the garden, under the bed, out the window as we drive! lol

I gave Master 2 a template of a Chameleon after we read the book. I put out some coloured paints and gave Master 2 cotton buds to paint with - great for his fine motor skill development.

After he finished painting his chameleon he added some glitter. I think it looks very cute and he's very proud.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Judgemental Parenting

When you were pregnant I imagine, like myself you thought it was going to be your turn in this world to enjoy the journey of parenting the little person inside you, how you and your partner/husband saw fit. Why is it then that some friends, family or other parents can be incredibly judgemental of others who choose parenting styles dissimilar to their own style? For those of you who have never heard the term before, a pushy parent who disagrees with your parenting style is actually defined as a "sanctimommy". Unfortunately, we come across these parents in our day-to-day dealings as we travel this journey of parenting.

I was of the school of thought that parents do what is instinctively natural and right for them and their child and that people respected others decisions and choices on how to parent. Although relatively new to this role called "parenting" I am quickly realising that there have always been – and will be – those who blatantly criticize others.

The very obvious rolling of the eyes (and maybe even a heavy sigh) when you say you plan to breastfeed your child beyond a year/or did breastfeed beyond a year.

The blatant sneering when someone sees your child still sucking their thumb at five years old.

The look of horror when you reach for the regular — not organic — milk on the grocery shelf.

The look of shock – terror, really – when you disclose that you sometimes let your child sleep in your bed with you/or that they do sleep in your bed.

I have learnt that whilst others can be so quick to judge your parenting style, it is often their own personal parenting style that they are questioning. Many of us parent as we were parented, parent with the intent to differ from our own up-bringing, or parent with our own individual style. However we choose to parent, ultimately the choice is ours. Below I have a few tips that might just come in handy next time you come across a judgemental friend, parent or family member:

  • Don’t take it personally. Some people feel there’s only one way to parent: their way. Learn to ignore negative comments and realize that everyone is simply different.

  • Don’t be intimidated. Speak up for yourself. Describe the positive results your parenting style has produced. Disagreeing with parents who criticize your parenting ways is really ok.

  • Be cordial. Even politely thank the person for offering their suggestions. But don’t apologize for your methods just because someone else thinks theirs is better. If it’s working for you and your family, stick to it.

  • Be open-minded. Never discount another point of view just because it is different. Listen to what they have to say. If your method isn’t quite working for you and theirs makes sense, at least consider it.

  • Join a parent group that shares your views. The support you get will be liberating.

  • Choose your friends carefully that you spend time with. Friend's who are negative about your style of parenting are going to tire you out and bring down your confidence.

In learning how to deal with pushy parents, you are actually learning how to stand up for what you think is best for your child. In other words, sanctimommies beware!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Valentine Heart Catcher

One day, it begins to rain hearts, and young Cornelia Augusta begins to catch them. She realizes that these hearts would be great for making valentines. We watch her think of many different kinds of valentines, and think about who each one would be perfect for. What I love about this little book is the thoughtfulness Cornelia Augusta demonstrates, customizing each gift to please a particular friend (and the friends all turn out to be members of the animal world!). Master 2 enjoyed figuring out who each valentine was for and why. Very cute!

This is a really cute Valentine's Day activity, or one that can be used when you're teaching about shapes (heart) or talking about love. One of my favourite rhymes to sing to my boys is

Skinnamarinky dinky dink
Skinnamarinky do,
I love you!

Skinnamarinky dinky dink
Skinnamarinky do,
I love you!

I love you in the morning,
And in the afternoon
I love you in the evening,
Underneath the moon…

Skinnamarinky dinky dink
Skinnamarinky do,
I love you!
I gave Master a piece of clear cellophane and some cut up pink and red squares. A pot of clear glue and he was ready to get busy filling his heart with LOVE.

Make sure you get your little one to leave spaces between the squares so that the sun can shine through when it goes up on the window.

Once the glue had dried we put the heart up on the window and watched the sun coming through. The was a really fun activity that both boys enjoyed and the end result looks great!

Thursday, February 10, 2011


On a shopping trip this morning Master 2 somehow persuaded me into buying him an umbrella! On the way home we were chatting in the car about why you use an umbrella (to keep the rain off you or to protect you from the sun) and what he would like to do on a rainy day with his umbrella. Master 2 went on in length of course, as two year olds do, to tell me that he would like to walk along the road in the gutter where the "water whooshes down" the drain. I remembered driving home that I found this book, Who Likes Rain? at a market not so long ago so we read it over morning tea as Master 2 sat under is umbrella to protect him from the sun!! It is a lovely story about a little girl putting on her raincoat and boots and walking in the rain and describing all that she sees. She meets some animals that like the rain and then joins them with a stomp in the puddles at the end. Master 2 thought that was just perfect!
Our craft activity today was around the rain and the umbrella. Master 2 and I were watching the clouds outside (he was praying for rain so he could get out in those puddles!) when he asked me why the clouds were racing? As simply as I could explain it to a 2 year old, I said that they were moving as it was beginning to get very windy and the clouds were getting darker and may start to bang together to let out the rain. From this we:
  1. Put a piece of A4 paper in a foil tray and put blobs of white and blue paint on it.
  2. Put 5 marbles in the tray and Master 2 rocked and rolled the marbles, mixing the paint together to create a rain affect.
  3. I gave Master 2 a template of an umbrella, some cut up tissue paper in squares and some glue. He happily sat and glued this on to the umbrella.
  4. When our paint had dried and the tissue paper on the umbrella, together we glued the umbrella on the rain!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Elmer The Elephant

Master 2 has a real fascination with animals, all animals in fact. So whenever I bring out a story to read that has an animal character in it, there are no limits in where I can take the learning to with him. A recent visit to the zoo and feeding of the elephants has sparked an interest in them, in particular the way they use their trunk to take the fruit from his hands. After reading our story he was very keen to help me put together a dress-up costume so we could re-enact the story together!

(So sorry but for some reason I can't turn this photo!)

The story of Elmer the Elephant is a comical fable that celebrates individuality and the power of laughter. This happy elephant brings hours of joy and laughter to our bedtime reading sessions. As Elmer is a patchwork elephant it is a great book to use when looking at colours and shapes, in particular squares. I'm having a bit of a shape week for Master 2, so I decided to do some fun craft with him after sharing the book together over morning tea. It is a very simple craft activity that only needs an outline of Elmer, coloured paper cut into squares and glue. It is a cute little activity that allows you time to sit and talk about colours and ask "What colour patch are you gluing on now?" It will give you an indication of what colours your little one is confident with and which ones you need to still work on.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Australian Themed Books For Kids

  1. Possum Magic By Mem Fox

  2. Wombat Divine By Mem Fox

  3. Koala Lou By Mem Fox

  4. Never Smile at a Crocodile By Jack Lawrence

  5. The Wheels on the Ute Go Round and Round By Loraine Harrison

  6. Possum Tale By Lucienne Noontil

  7. Out in the Bush By Yvonne Morrison

  8. Baby Wombat's Week By Jackie French

  9. Blossom Possum: The Sky is Falling Down-Under By Gina Newton

  10. Possum and Wattle By Bronwyn Bancroft

  11. Diary of a Wombat By Jackie French

  12. Edward the Emu By Sheena Knowles

  13. Australia ABCs: A Book About the People and Places of Australia (Country Abcs)By Sarah Heiman

  14. The Biggest Frog in Australia by Susan L. Roth

  15. Hunwick's Egg by Mem Fox

  16. Ernie Dances to the Didgeridoo by Alison Lester

  17. The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest By Lynne Cherry

  18. Tiddalick: The Frog Who Caused a Flood By Robert Roennfeldt

  19. A Year on Our Farm By Penny Matthews & Andrew Mclean

  20. The Cocky Who Cried Dingo By Yvonne Morrison & Heath Makenzie

  21. Australia At The beach By Max Fatchen & Tom Jellett

  22. Goldilocks and the Three Koalas By Kel Richards

  23. How the Birds got their Colours story told by Mary Albert of the Bardi People to Aboriginal children living in Broome, Western Australia.

  24. Echidna and the Shade Tree story is compiled by Pamela Lofts based on a telling by Mona Green of the Jaru people to students in Halls Creek, Western Australia

  25. How the Kangaroo Got Tails story told by George Mung Mung Lirrmiyarri, of the Kija people, to Aboriginal children living in Warmun (Turkey Creek), Western Australia.

  26. Magic Boomerang by Frane Lessac and Mark Greenwood

  27. W is for Wombat My First Australian Word Book by Bronwyn Bancroft

  28. A Home for Bilby By Joanned Crawford

  29. Anzac Day Parade By Glenda Kane

  30. Josephine Wants to Dance By Jackie French

  31. Imagine By Alison Lester

  32. I Love It When You Smile by Sam Mcbratney

  33. And Kangaroo Played His Didgeridoo By Nigel Gray

  34. Father Koala's Nursery Rhymes By Kel Richards

  35. One Woolly Wombat By Kerry Argent

  36. Santa Koala By Colin Buchanan

  37. Snug as a Hug: An Australian Lullaby By Marcia Vaughan

  38. The Bush Concert By Helga Visser

  39. There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Mozzie By P Crumble

  40. Wombat Stew By Marcia Vaughan

  41. Roos in Shoes by Tom Keneally

  42. The Golden Kangaroo by Garrison Valentine

  43. Sailaway. The Ballad of Skip & Nell by Mem Fox

  44. Are We There yet? by Alison Lester

  45. Alexander’s Outing by Pamela Allen

  46. Emily and The Big Bad Bunyip by Jackie French

  47. Where the Forest meets the Sea By Jeannie Baker

  48. Sebastian lives in a Hat By Thelma Catterwell

  49. Magic Beach By Alison Lester

  50. Greetings from Sandy Beach By Bob Graham

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Making Sushi Rolls

Sushi is becoming increasingly popular for kids lunches and children can learn to prepare and enjoy this food. Sushi is raw fish wrapped up in seaweed right? Wrong!
Sushi means “vinegar flavored rice.” It is a simple food that can be prepared with foods we all know and love. It does not have to involve any raw meats or fish. Learning how to cook rice and prepare sushi rolls is a window into Japanese culture. We make sushi rolls for kinder lunches and master 4 just loves them!
Some other suggestions for sushi rolls are:
assorted vegetables
white radishes
red or yellow bell peppers
spinach leaves
sliced ham or turkey lunch meat
chicken strips or frozen shrimp (steamed or fried )
feta cheese
rice wine (optional)
toasted sesame seeds
chopped walnuts

Put the nori sheet, shiny-slick side down, on your sushi rolling mat.

Spread about 1 1/2 cups (lightly packed into cup; don’t smoosh down!) of sushi rice evenly over the nori, leaving about a half inch or 1 cm gap on the far side. Use your fingers dipped in the bowl of vinegar water to spread out the rice.

Pile up your filling in the middle of the rice. Don’t try to pile on too much here if you are a beginner.

Grab the near end of the sushi rolling mat to start rolling. You may need to reach around with your fingers to keep the filling in place. Roll over the filling in one go - stopping in the middle will make for a messy roll. Squeeze tightly, and finish rolling.

Unroll. (Practice does help, so do over if your first one didn’t work.) If the roll looks a bit uneven, gently squeeze again to even out. Optionally serve with wasabi and soy sauce for dipping.