Wax resist Name Recognition and Letter Learning

Aug 28, 2015


My 3 (almost 4) year-old is really into letters at the moment. He's asking questions about them, pointing them out, recognising/naming them, making them and just generally showing that now is the time to follow his interest and provide him with opportunities to practice and learn more about letters and his name.

I don't have time for fancy set-ups or anything that takes a long time to prepare these days (3 year-olds really keep you busy!) and it's almost always the simple activities that are most enjoyed and get the most use. This wax-resist activity is a classic that doesn't go out of style. You only need a candle, paper and some watercolour paint to have fun practicing name recognition, letter learning, number learning and just having fun.

Ages: 2+
See the bottom for handy tips to simplify or extend to suit your child's age & level of development.
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Tips for fun in the snow with kids.

Aug 25, 2015



Last Friday we were treated to a day of awesome snow play at Lake Mountain Alpine Resort which is Melbourne's closest ski resort (just 90 mins from Melbourne). It is often referred to as the People's Mountain, as it's the place that many children experience snow for the first time. This was the second time we've been to Lake Mountain as a family and therefore the second time my kids have seen snow.

As we rarely experience snow in Melbourne, it is a real thrill to be able to take the kids for tobogganing and general snow play like building snowmen and having snowball fights! This time we even all tried something new together as we had beginners skiing lesson. Yes, even 3 year-old Noah had a try too. Such a fun experience and highly recommended! Lake Mountain is Australia's premier location for cross-country skiing and is fabulous for beginners!

I'll let the pictures do the talking from here and be sure to see our top 10 tips for having a great experience in the snow with kids at the bottom of the post. There were a few things that we learnt to do differently from our first snow trip and some tips we picked up on the day that overall made it a more pleasant experience.
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12 DIY Quiet Busy Games for Kids in the Car

Aug 18, 2015

Looking for ways to quietly entertain the kids on long road-trips? Look no further than this great collection of 12 independent road-trip activities that you can make yourself at home.

This post is sponsored by GT Radial Tyres and Nuffnang.

We spend a lot of time in the car. Usually just driving short distances between locations like school, the shops, friend's houses and home. Now that we have a caravan though, our road trips are becoming more frequent and the time we are spending in the car is increasing as we venture further and further away from home.

Driving is just a way of life for us but there are a couple of things that concern me about having my kids in the car. First and most important to me is their safety, as we all know how dangerous driving can be. I'm also aware of trying to keep my kids' minds active over long trips when they are unable to be physically active.
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Fine Motor Dot Sticker Letter Learning and Name Recognition

Aug 14, 2015


Letters are a hot topic at our house these days. Noah (3.5) has taken a real interest in letters, pointing them out, asking about their names and sounds and making connections between letters and other people or things in his life. Now is the perfect time for me to build upon this interest and offer opportunities for him to practice reading, writing, tracing, sounding-out, recognising, playing with and experiencing letters. 
At this age especially, I believe learning should be enjoyable and not forced. You can read more about my thoughts on learning letters with younger children here and how best to go about it here.

Today's activity works specifically on letter recognition, letter formation, fine motor skills and name recognition.

Ages: 2+
See the bottom of the post for handy tips for getting the most out of this activity for your child/ren
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Handy tips for recording childhood milestones and magical moments.

Aug 11, 2015

This post is sponsored by Disney Junior The Channel and Nuffnang

The saying, "The days are long but the years are short", feels all too true when you have children. There are some days that really feel like bedtime is never going to come, and then you blink and another year is over and your baby, who's now a child, is moving up in the world before you've had time to come to terms with it.

One of the biggest lies that I tell myself is, "I'll remember that". Unfortunately, these days, unless it's something absolutely major, if I don't write it down or have some sort of record of it, before too long, it's gone and forgotten. This is true for a lot of my children's milestones. I had a baby record book purchased or gifted to me with both my children and I hate to admit it, but they are both completely empty. (And my kids are soon to be turning 4 and 7!) Life just happened too quickly and all those little details of first this and first that, left my conscious memory before I got around to putting them all in the books!
Thankfully, because of my growing interest in photography over the years, I have captured most of the things that were actually important to me, like those first steps or first days of preschool. One day, when I have more time (so, I guess... never? haha) I can at least go back through my pictures and videos and seek out those special moments and include them in the books so that I can pass them onto my children as keepsakes.

There are plenty of ways that you can record your child's special moments and milestones. Here are some of my favourites as well as some handy tips to go along with them and a chance for your child to star on TV thanks to Disney Junior The Channel.

1) Capture moments on Video.



A fabulous way to record those magical moments is on video! These days the majority of people's mobile phones have video recording capabilities. Gone are the days when you had to lug around a large, specialised piece of equipment. Video recording is at our fingertips more than ever and whilst I love, love, love my pictures, I am starting to embrace taking more videos as there's nothing that can replicate those exact movements your child used to do, the way they sounded when they talked/sung or pronounced certain words or the complete joy and overall reaction they had as they experienced something great. Sometimes it's just the little things like their mannerisms, or how they use a certain inflection on words when talking, which can be missed in still photos and forgotten forever.

Tips: 
  • Small snippets are great. You can piece them together to create an overall picture of an experience with all the best bits. For example, if you're going on a boat ride with your kids, filming the entire hour round trip is just not necessary. A couple of minutes here and there can sum up the whole experience quite easily (and you're more likely to find time to watch back smaller clips, than hours and hours of video at a time). In my video above, which is from our recent family holiday to Vanuatu, we spent a lot of time playing and not much time filming, so I didn't have a lot to work with. I've took a few short clips of video and a couple of photos and popped them together. For the purpose of sharing here, I added a bit of generic music to make it seem a bit more fancy. Not too shabby and gives a nice little snippet whilst being under a minute long.

  • Video editing isn't as scary as it seems. The idea of editing videos was a bit scary to me at first but having a bit of a play around with it you discover it's not that tricky to do. There are tons of different editing tools you can use. I just use the free editing software that came with my computer and there are a number of free ones online as well.

  • Get down on their level. Your videos will look a lot better if instead of always filming from above, you get the camera down to the level of the children.

  • Chance to Star on TV! Disney Junior The Channel are currently calling for submission of your recorded magical moments for a chance to be part of a special video they are creating. Upload your video on their facebook page and see more details at the bottom of this post.

2) Take Photos.



Whether you have a basic point-and-click, a fancy-shmancy DSLR or a smart-phone, there aren't many of us without access to a camera these days and it's likely that most of us are carrying one around with us everywhere! Whilst I definitely believe that we shouldn't be viewing our entire children's lives through a screen and that it's important to also be in the moment with your children, snapping a few quick shots here and there isn't likely to interfere too much with that and you will cherish all those memories down the track.

Tips: 
  • No need to always pose. Whilst I love a good group shot, posed pic and to see happy, smiling children, the photos that are my favourite are actually those that are just capturing real life. No need to stop your child so that they're looking at the camera or smiling for the camera, instead just take the time to observe your children in their natural state and wait for opportune moments to snap a few pics. Natural smiling and laughter always make for better pictures than forced smiles. (If you do want to pose though, like in the picture above, saying funny things to get your child to laugh will generally result in a more authentic smile than if you just ask them to smile)

  • Remember real life. You probably won't end up framing your pictures of the toy explosion that took over your living room or your gigantic mound of washing, but these pictures will make you smile and bring back floods of memories in years to come. So, don't forget to snap up bits of everyday life as well.


  • Quality isn't everything. It's funny how often I am trying to get "that perfect shot" and yet there's a limit to how many pictures I can actually get printed and framed and display around the house or gift to relatives. Not every photo has to be one that's good enough to print or share on facebook. Some of my very favourite photos to look back on (like the pic above) are ones where we're not dressed properly or the photo is blurred, etc., because these photos bring back memories of happiness.

  • Shoot in natural light where you can. Photos just generally look better in natural light. Sometimes, even when it's dim inside our house, I will still snap a photo with no lights or flash on as I can easily lighten the photo with an editing tool if it comes up too dark.

  • Avoid zoom. Unless you have a tripod or an extremely steady hand, I'd avoid zooming in on your photos and instead just try to get closer. With a high resolution picture, you can often take the pic from a distance and then crop it to show the parts that you want anyway. You will generally get a better result than if you're trying to take photos on zoom... especially of children that are unlikely to be staying still!

  • Add a sign to milestones. Adding little signs written on paper, whiteboards or chalkboards makes for a really fun little photoshoot and is something that can easily be replicated year after year as the children grow. That one consistency in the pics is what will make them seem really special.


3) Make a Memory Jar



A fun way to get the whole family involved in recording magical moments is with a family memory jar. You can easily make a memory jar out of a recycled glass jar. Each night at dinner, each family member can recall something special from the day which can be written on a slip of paper and slotted into your memory jar.  At the end of each year, it's lots of fun to go back through the jar together and recall all the fun and joy experienced during the year.

Tips:
  • Keep up with it. If recording memories each day is too hard to keep up with, you could do it at a family dinner once a week instead, or just have family members add in their special moments as they come up.

  • Holiday Memories. Some people make "Vacation Jars" which work on a similar premise to a memory jar. In your vacation jar, store pictures, memories, pamphlets, souvenirs etc. from your family holiday. A new jar for each new holiday. Lots of fun to empty and look back on.

4) Display special Artwork



Children's drawings are so special. It is fascinating as a parent to watch the progression in their skills and how their drawings change over time. Obviously we can't keep every single thing they ever doodle, but keeping and framing a few special ones over the years is another lovely way to bring back precious memories.

Tips:
  • Frame it! It's amazing how adding a nice frame to a child's artwork can suddenly make it feel worthy of hanging in the Louvre.

  • Photograph it and make into a book. If you're a bit like me and really struggle with throwing out your children's precious drawings, take a quick photograph of it and then dispose of it without guilt. Keep a folder on your computer labeled "kids drawings" and then file the photos away in there when you go through them. You can turn them into a little slide show to show your child their inner Piccaso, or better yet, use an online printing service to turn them into a photobook. This makes a great coffee table book and I'm sure the Grandparents would love a copy too.


5) Make a journal or scrapbook.


If you're the creative type and find things easier if they're written down in hard copy, then making a journal or scrap book of memories could be right up your alley.

Tips:
  • Make sure to set a time once a week or once a month to add to your book or you might find time slipping away and it's hard to keep up with.

  • Include pictures, little scraps of material from favourite clothes, quotes from your child and any little memories you want to remember.

6) Use a Tracking app.


Whilst I've not personally used any, milestone tracking apps are the way of the future and look like they could be quite handy at helping you remember certain events and dates. There are a number of different apps and this article from Kidspot gives the low-down on a few.

7) Use Questionnaires.



Questionnaires and surveys are a great way to record a little insight to your child's personality, interests, likes and dislikes at a certain period of time. They are easy to make. Simply write a list of questions and have your child answer them. Before your children can write, you can record what they say and then as they get older they can write in the answers themselves. It's great to use the same set of questions over the years to see how their answers change or remain the same over time.

Tips:
  • You can find plenty of examples and even free printables of kid surveys on the internet. Pictured above is an example of a questionnaire we've used in the past.

  • As your children get older, you can of course add in new questions or reword questions to suit their age.

8) Social Media. 



Most of us are using some form of social media these days and sharing photos is often a big part of this. Uploading your pictures online is not only a nice way to keep friends and family in the loop of what the kids are up to, but can also be very handy when it comes to storing, recording and printing. One of my very favourite social media sites is Instagram. It's quick, easy to use and is a great way to record day-to-day goings-on, milestones and magical moments. The bonus of using Instagram is that there are a number of easy, online printing services and apps that allow you to print a whole range of fabulous products, direct from your Instagram photos.

Tips: 



  • Privacy. With all social media sites can come the concern with privacy. My general rule of thumb is that if I'm not comfortable with everyone or anyone seeing it, then it's probably best to keep it off the net entirely. You can, however, ensure that your photos online are kept private or only viewed by the people that you are happy to see them by adjusting the privacy settings in your various social media sites. On Instagram you can have your profile either public or private and if private, your photos will only be viewed by those people that you've allowed to follow you. On Facebook you can go as far as changing the privacy of each photo you upload to allow it to be seen, or not, by whomever you wish.



  • Your chance to be featured on Disney Junior!

    Disney Junior The Channel is the place where Magical Storytelling is brought to life for kids aged 2-7 and is available on Foxtel (channel 709). They are currently celebrating the magical moments that we share with our little ones and are asking YOU to submit your family's Magical Moments on video via their Facebook Page for a chance to see your little ones on TV, on Disney Junior The Channel!

    To enter, simply upload your video to the Disney Junior Australia & New Zealand Facebook page by Sunday 23rd August (hurry, just 2 weeks!) and tag in #DJmagicalmoments. From the submissions, Disney Junior will then be developing a celebration video to be aired on Disney Junior The Channel and shared socially via digital media, including Facebook and YouTube. You can see all the details at DisneyJunior.com.au/moments.

    Go here to upload your video.

    What are your favourite ways to record childhood?

    Happy recording,
    Debs :)

    {Disclosure: this is a paid post for Disney Junior The Channel sponsored by Nuffnang. As always, opinions expressed in this post are my own.}

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    Clay Imprint Art for Kids

    Aug 8, 2015



    We've been interested in monoprinting ever since we tried it out ages ago while cardboard comb painting and painting on a mirror. The reveal that you get when you peel back the paper is fun and exciting as you never quite know what is going to appear and no two prints will ever be the same!

    This clay imprinting art is a fun activity for kids of all ages with just a few simple steps.
    1) Making your design by imprinting your rolled clay, 2) painting over the design, and 3) printing the design off the clay.

    Ages: 2-3+
    See the bottom of the post for handy tips to extend or simplify for your child
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    12 Engineering Activities for Kids

    Jul 24, 2015

    Your little engineers will really enjoy these 12 creative engineering activities.


    On a recent trip to Sydney, Australia, I spent a lot of time admiring (and photographing) the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge which is the widest and one of the longest steel arch bridges in the world. Quite the engineering feat! Between that and the world famous Sydney Opera House, I came back buzzing from my little getaway with lots of thoughts about engineering and just how important it is for our children to have opportunities to experience it and to learn more about it.

    What is engineering? 

    Engineering is the application of science, technology and maths to develop solutions to problems. Put simply, engineers are creators! They take the above disciplines and combine these with creativity and ingenuity to make something new. Engineers see a problem and solve it. They create and re-create products, infrastructure and solutions that make our everyday life easier.


    Architectural engineers play a huge role in the construction of buildings like the Sydney Opera House (pictured above) and civil engineers work on things like roads and bridges like the Sydney Harbour Bridge (see pictures below). There are also many other types of engineers that are heavily involved in so many different projects and areas of production. From technology and the engineering of the mobile phones we use, to robots, computer games, chemical engineering, medicine, renewable energy, aircraft and much more. There are so many different avenues that engineers can put their skills and passions towards in this modern day and age.

    Why is it important for children to learn engineering?

    Allowing children to experience different forms of engineering helps them to understand more about the processes that go into making up so much of the world around us. Engineering encourages creativity, problem solving and cooperation. It allows children to think outside the box and to come up with solutions to problems through experimentation and trial and error, whilst putting into practice so many of the skills they are acquiring as they grow.

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    Simple Paper Plate Dragon Craft

    Jun 21, 2015

    Create a magical dragon from one paper plate.


    Inspired by the brand new series, Dragons: Race to the Edge, by the creators of "How to Train Your Dragon," due to be released on Netflix soon, the kids and I created our very own dragon puppets!

    Using a single paper plate as the base, decorate your dragon with paper collage, paint, fabric scraps or whatever takes your fancy.
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    Place Value Maths Game. Cows and Bulls

    Jun 12, 2015


    This simple little place value number game is a favourite of Maddie's (aged 6) at school and at home. Use it to practice recognising numbers, writing numbers and place value, along with problem solving. You can play with two or more people and it is great as a whole class game on the whiteboard (with teacher vs students) or just in pairs (parent and child/two children).

    You can use this activity for practicing two digit numbers (with tens and ones), three digit numbers (hundreds, tens and ones), four digit numbers (thousands, hundreds, tens and ones) and so on.
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