Dinosaurs in Sticky Mud! Sensory Play for Kids

Apr 17, 2015

Have a whole pile of squishy, sensory fun, making and playing with dinosaurs in sticky mud! With a super simple recipe, you can whip up this sensory experience in just a couple of minutes.

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Kitchen Hacks for Busy Mums

Apr 2, 2015

This post is brought to you by Nuffnang and DAIRYLEA

Recently I was invited by DAIRYLEA to take part in their Hackademy, where a group of Mums got together to chat "MUMMY HACKS." Little helpful tips and tricks that make the overall job of being a Mum, just that bit easier. It was a fun day with lots of great ideas that you will be able to see on the MUMMY HACKS website

As I find myself spending a fair bit of time in the kitchen, it's an area that I am always happy to reduce time in and make things a bit easier for myself. Over the years I have found some ideas have been more useful than others and some I find myself using all the time.


5 Kitchen Hacks


Mummy Hack #1 Make your own Smoothie-poles

We love smoothies at our house as they are a great way to use up fruit and include a good serve of dairy. We usually make our smoothies from a combination of full cream milk, greek yoghurt and a variety of fruits, spices or honey for different flavours. You could make dairy free ones with a combo of fruit, juice, ice and veggies. Play around with combinations to vary the taste and use the ingredients you have on hand.

When making up a smoothie, I always make a bit extra as it means that I can freeze it and the kids can have a frozen treat on another day. 



Banana-berry smoothie and icy-poles

Whizz together 2 cups of milk, 1 ripe banana, half a cup of berries (frozen or fresh), half a cup of greek yoghurt with an optional squeeze of honey or sprinkle of cinnamon to taste. Vary the amounts to suit the amount of children you have and the amount of icy-poles you want to make.


One afternoon my kids will have the fresh smoothie we've made and the next afternoon they can have a smoothie-pop instead.


Banana and raspberry is a particular favourite with my kids.

I find that my children are more likely to try new foods and generally eat healthier when we cook and prepare foods together. It's a great time to discuss foods and learn more about healthy eating.

Pop over to the MUMMY HACKS website to see the rest of my top Kitchen Hacks for Busy Mums.

You might also like to try cooking some of these recipes with the kids:

Our snack boxes are also great time and sanity saver.

What are your favourite time saving kitchen hacks?


Happy playing,
Debs :)

DAIRYLEA, the DAIRYLEA device and MUMMY HACK are trademarks of MONDELEZ INTERNATIONAL GROUP used under licence.

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Water Transfer Colour Guess Game. Fine motor skills activity for kids.

Mar 28, 2015



Back when Maddie (aged 6) was just 3 years old, she was a great fan of transferring water from one vessel to another. Now that Noah is 3, I've been going back through my own blog to see some of the activities she was getting up to at that age. I found our Colour Discovery Water Transfer activity and knew that it'd be right up his alley.

This time, to mix it up a little bit, we had a go of this in 3 different ways. From the basic skill of moving water from one container to another, to a couple of different versions of guessing colours and making them appear.

Ages: 2+
(See Handy Tips at the bottom for ideas to simplify or extend to suit your child's needs)
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Road-trip activities and games for kids

Mar 20, 2015

This post is sponsored by RACV and Nuffnang

For me growing up, road-trips were our main type of holiday, as we made the yearly trip from Melbourne up to visit relatives in NSW and QLD. I have many fond memories of great playgrounds along the way, endless stretches of highway and beautiful scenery, eating Callipos (the least drippy frozen treat my parents could buy from service stations), singing in the car (anything from my obsession with Phantom of the Opera after seeing it live, to Peter Combe and his bubble-gum-teeth-bushing antics) and countless rounds of "I-spy." I have less than fond memories of breaking down on the side of the road, but, more about that later.

Back then (I'm talking the mid 80's to mid 90's), we certainly didn't have any movie playing capacities in our car, and whilst it was usually hard to pry a book from my hands, my travel-sickness when looking down for long periods meant them and the hand-held games my younger brothers sometimes played, weren't an option for me on our road-trips.

These days, there are portable dvd players and they can be good for road-trips. I don't mind a movie here or there, but personally, I don't want my children watching a screen the entire road-trip as there is just so much more fun to be had! There are so many great car games you can play. According to a recent RACV survey, 5% of Australian families say they play games like “I-spy” in the car, with more than 5 times that amount relying on the ipad to entertain the kids instead. What has happened to our Aussie tradition?

For us, singing to music will probably always be our number 1 favourite road-trip activity so I would definitely load up on great music before I go. In addition to that, I like to be prepared before I go with a few bits and bobs that are going to make the journey that little bit more fun, engaging and exciting. Here are some of our other favourite road trip games and any printables that you need to go along with them.

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Number Chef. Fun, hands-on number learning game for kids.

Mar 11, 2015

A fun and hands-on game for toddlers through to early school-age children. Practice counting, number recognition, number writing and more. Great for role-play and as a set up for learning centres and play-based curriculum. See the bottom for handy tips to simplify or extend to suit your children's level. 


At age 3, my son does a lot of rote counting (where he can recite numbers in order from memory) but he is still working on the understanding of what numbers actually mean and represent. Properly understanding numbers, from the written symbol to the many different ways it can be represented is more important than rote-counting and takes multiple experiences over time to consolidate the understanding. Don't get me wrong, it's great if your child can count in order from memory, it's all part of the learning, but that doesn't mean that they understand numbers.

Understanding that a number (eg. three/3) represents a certain, consistent amount of something is a skill that children work on from early on. They are exposed to this kind of understanding through everyday life, like reading stories, (ie. Goldilocks and the Three Bears), talking about family (ie. 3 people in your family), eating and preparing food (3 spoons of honey, 3 pieces of cheese, 3 triangles of sandwich, etc.), while out and about, (look, there are 3 ducks! 3 red cars in a row, etc.) and so on.

As well as through these natural occurrences, we can set up experiences that allow children to practice working with numbers in fun and hands-on ways. The more children play with and are exposed the numbers, the greater their understanding will be. Having a solid foundational understanding of numbers 0 to 10 and what they represent is very important, as this is what your children will be building all their future mathematical knowledge and understanding upon.

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Stuff and Bake Pizza Rolls. Cooking with Kids

Mar 8, 2015


Today's cooking with kids recipe is a fun idea for lunch or even a quick dinner. Children are more likely to eat it when they've been part of the process. This recipe is particularly good when you've got some left over bread rolls that didn't get eaten fresh. Use the basic recipe idea, add in your own ingredients to taste and hey, presto!

You'll need one bread roll per person. Cut a "lid" out of the top and press the bread inside to make a hollow cavity.

Prepare your pizza fillings. We used chopped baby spinach, diced fresh Roma tomato, shredded cheese, sliced green olives and some shredded ham.

Layer the fillings inside the roll. We like to put a bit of cheese on the bottom and top as well as some through the other ingredients so that it all melts nicely together.

Stuff the fillings in! As the cheese melts and the ingredients disintegrate slightly from the heat, you should really pack the fillings in so that your roll doesn't appear half stuffed after it's baked. (A good discussion point with the children about the changing properties due to heat.)


Handy tips for learning while cooking

- Whilst this recipe, unlike our banana berry muffin recipe, doesn't focus on set amounts, measuring, numbers etc. there is still a lot to be learnt naturally through discussion:

  • Talk with your children about the ingredients while you cook. The different colours, textures and tastes. 
  • Where do the ingredients come from and how they are grown/produced?
  • Where would they sit on the healthy living pyramid
  • Which ingredients should we eat most of and which should we eat in smaller amounts? 
  • How will the ingredients change with the addition of heat? (science)

- Simplify this recipe for younger children by prepping the rolls and chopped ingredients first and providing to your child to stuff with their desired ingredients.

Extend this recipe for older children or those with more advanced kitchen skills by having them cut and hollow the rolls as well as chop and prepare the fillings before stuffing and putting in the oven.

- Kitchen Garden. Any vegetables you can source from your own veggie patch would be fabulous for this recipe. The process can start with the planting all the way through to eating their stuffed baked pizza roll! (And, you can make your own bread rolls as well)


When your pizza rolls are stuffed, put the bread roll lid back on top and pop them into a moderate oven until the cheese is melted inside and the outside is brown and crispy.

When they are done, cut in half so that they can cool a bit before the kids eat them and serve while still warm.

Stuff and Bake Pizza Rolls recipe

Ingredients: (we used)
  • Bread rolls
  • Cheese
  • Baby Spinach
  • Cut tomato
  • Shredded Ham
  • Green Olives

Other suggested ingredients: Pizza sauce, mushrooms, fresh herbs,  feta cheese, roast pumpkin, kalamata olives, salami, roast chicken, smoked chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, etc.

Method:

Preheat oven to 180°C  (356°F)

Cut the top out of a bread roll and hollow out.

Fill with your chosen ingredients. Stuff them in really well until it's completely full.

Pop the top of the bread roll back on and then into the oven for 10-15 minutes* or until the cheese has melted inside and the roll is crispy and browned on the outside.

*As all ovens are a bit different, keep an eye on your stuffed pizza rolls and cook for shorter or longer as needed.


Enjoy!


Here are some more Recipe ideas of ours you may want to try with the kids:


Happy cooking,
Debs :)

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Name Recognition Activity with Cutting Practice for kids

Mar 1, 2015


My baby is now 3 years old and this year is attending a 3 year-old preschool group, twice a week for 2.5 hour sessions (total of 5 hours per week). He is just loving the socialisation, play-based curriculum and the fact that it's practically like being at home, but instead of one activity at a time, he can race around from activity to activity doing whatever tickles his fancy at the time. 

It's no surprise that in a 2.5 hour session he finds the time to do rice play, painting, playdough, water-play, building, sand play, reading, pretend-play, cutting & pasting and a whole lot more!

One of the things that is important for him now that he is playing and learning independently outside of the house, is being able to recognise his own name. Each child at preschool has their own locker to put their bag and each has their name on it. As most children this age are pre-literate, they also include a photo of each child next to their name so that they can make the connection between their own face and the combination of letters that makes up their name. He also has things like drink bottles and hats that are now labeled with his name, so there is a lot of chance for exposure and it's something that he needs to be able to recognise.

Learning to recognise, read and write your own name is predominantly a matter of being exposed to it and having experiences with it, a number of times. Children are all different when it comes to how quickly they are able to learn something. Some children are able to have very few experiences with their name before they are able to recognise it for the word that it is, and some children will need to be exposed to it hundreds of times before they are able to have consolidated the learning. Most children sit somewhere in the middle of a bell curve graph of learning abilities and will pick up some things quicker or slower than others. We're all individuals.

So, in order to learn our name, we need to be exposed to it and have experiences with it. There are tons and tons of different ways that you can get children writing, reading and playing with their name. Here is one simple activity.

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Spider Web Art for Kids

Feb 20, 2015



The other day my mum (and the kids' beloved Nana) came over to hang out. I thought that we could all do some art, as being creative together provides time for chatting, learning, connecting and bonding. Not only would we end up with some lovely artwork but also memories of togetherness that will last a lifetime.
I'd been saving some watercolour paper to create something cool with for a while, and thought we could use it to paint some vibrant watercolour spider-web designs.


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Independent Activity Ideas for Kids (so you can get Saturday's housework done)

Feb 16, 2015


Unfortunately, despite wishing every weekend could be full of non-stop play and family togetherness, we inevitably find ourselves using at least a portion of the weekend to do chores and jobs around the house. Our Saturdays usually include multiple loads of washing, vacuuming, cooking and general tidying up.

There are times that we engage the children to help with various household chores and there are also some jobs that we'd prefer to do as efficiently as possible, to quickly get it out of the way so that we can move onto more pleasurable weekend tasks. This isn't always easy with young children following you around, clinging onto your leg, hounding you for food or entertainment or trying to "help" in their own unique ways. Having a few independent activities (they're things your children can do without adult assistance) up your sleeve, can be very handy indeed.

When it comes to setting your kids up with an independent inside activity, you need to take into consideration their age and abilities. With younger children, activities that involve materials with a high likelihood of mess, like paint, water-play, rice etc. are probably best saved for a time when you can be more actively supervising. You also want to make sure that the activities are open-ended enough to allow for multiple experiences and self explanatory enough so the kids don't need long instructions or help figuring out what or how to do something.

Below are some of my favourite go-to independent activity ideas for kids.

Busy Boxes



A busy box is something that you make ahead of time so you can grab and give to a child quickly when needed. It is something that children wouldn't normally have access to and is just reserved for times when you need it. The draw of a busy box is the excitement of rummaging through a box of endless possibilities for creating. They stimulate children's minds as they go through the process of evaluating the materials and options and deciding how they are going to combine and use them.

You could provide children with a recycle box challenge (minus the paint for younger children), encourage writing and drawing with a writing box, set them up with a quiet box, a playdough train box, some busy bags, a lego patterns box, a portable road kit or a sight words busy box.

After your child has used a particular busy box or bag, it's fun to add new and interesting materials to keep it fresh and to entice them on other occasions.

Play-dough Invitations



So long as you have some playdough and some bits and bobs, you can entice a long session of creative, sensory play that isn't going to require your assistance. If you have older children who feel that playdough just isn't for them anymore, you could offer modelling clay as an alternative.

Chances are, the overall excitement of say, playdough paired with cookie cutters, will lose it's appeal over time as all the options for play are exhausted. Changing and swapping around the playdough's accompanying materials provides children with different experiences and different options for creating (and learning).

Some tested and well-loved combinations are things like playdough and magnetic letters, playdough with pompoms and pinecones, a playdough spring garden or playdough with pipe-cleaners and beads.

Add some blocks in this fun playdough bricklaying activity or set up a playdough sweet shop or pizza shop. You can even add some cotton-buds for a challenging construction activity.

Pairing your playdough with a playdough mat is also a quick and easy idea. You might like to try this flower playdough mat, this food playdough mat, these alphabet playdough mats or these people playdough mats.

Construction Activities


My children love building things and with just a few different materials, can be busily constructing away for ages. We have a variety of different blocks at our house, from standard wooden blocks to castle and tree blocks. We also have Duplo and Lego that we use often for constructing and playing with.

Beyond just building with the blocks, there are lots of different ideas sure to engage your children. Try pairing tape with blocks to see what you can come up with or engineering with toothpicks and marshmallows. Give children some books and cars or cardboard boxes. We also love to build with plastic plates and cups.

Print out these free printable windows and doors and provide with some recycled cardboard boxes for children to create their own city or find some sticky-tape and straws to challenge children's ingenuity.

Contact Paper Activities


Contact paper or sticky-back plastic, is a great low-mess medium for all kinds of fun, independent activities for children. The sticky side of the plastic allows for easy collaging, creating and learning opportunities. A sticky-wall, sticky-table or sticky-easel is quick and easy to set up by simply peeling the backing off a large sheet of contact paper, and attaching (with some tape in the corners) to your surface, with the sticky side up. You're left with an instant reusable sticky surface that is perfect for younger kids.

Try presenting their sticky surface with materials like ribbons and string or craft sticks and straws to see what they come up with. You can add cardboard tubes and marbles to make a marble run or these to inspire a garden like in the picture above. Stick some eyes onto bottle-tops for a fun sticky caterpillar game or try some contact paper art. Did you know you can pair contact paper with blocks?

You could give younger children some wool to stick, make gorgeous mandalas or design yourself some cool bracelets or cuffs. Here are even more ideas for using contact paper for play.


Role Play


Another great independent activity for children is imaginative play. When we were kids, we could get lost in our role plays for hours and hours and the great thing is that we needed very few materials and just a lot of imagination. To entice children to get into role playing at a time you're needing them to be independently occupied, providing a few pre-prepared materials could be the ticket.

Getting out a couple of props or dress-ups and putting them out for children to find, will often be enough to entice them. The more effort I go to setting the scene, the more enthused they usually are. (I'm talking things like hand-written signs you can quickly stick on the wall, a little table moved into the centre of a room with a chair behind it or a couple of house-hold items they may not play with regularly. All these little things add to their enthusiasm but you don't need to spend a lot of time or effort on it.)

Some ideas for role play set-ups are Doctor role play  (there's a free printable Dr check-list for you there),  pretend school, shop keeperspretend Vets, pretend schoolpretend travel, ice cream shop owners, office play or that you're going camping! If you're after more inspiration, here are tons of pretend play printables.

Technology


There are plenty of benefits of technology for kids and so long as you've established a way to control kids' technology use (so they don't have unrestricted, unsupervised access to the internet or games), some computer or tablet time can be perfect for an independent activity while you get the ironing done. Currently on the ipad, the kids and I are loving discovering and learning with the amazing MWorld, making up stories on the Play School Art Maker and exploring the interactive Play School Play Time app.


There has to be enough ideas there to at least buy you a few Saturday's worth of chores. What are your go-to independent activities for the kids?


Happy playing,
Debs :)
This post is part of a Nuffnang native advertising series


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