Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Monthly play roundup: Food, glorious food!

At our place, we love playing with food. So here’s a quick roundup of some of the fun foodie things we’ve been up to lately…



~ Enjoying classic fruits in new and unusual ways ~

Fruit kebabs ~ the kids helped me to arrange them on the kebab sticks, anything seems to taste better when it’s on a stick // Mini apple cars ~ with toothpicks to hold the grape wheels in place

IMG_20160531_135015 IMG_20160518_134040


~ Pancake monster faces ~

We created own monster faces with various fruit pieces on pancake ‘faces’.
This was also an extension from the ‘Go Away Big Green Monster’ activity we did previously.

IMG_20160531_133127 Collage 2016-05-31 13_27_41


~ Freshly baked pretzels ~

Sometimes as an alternative to play dough, I whip up a batch of bread or pretzel dough for the children to ‘play with’ and come up with their own real edible creations to eat for morning tea.

IMG_20160531_135248 IMG_20160531_135358


~ Homemade calzones ~

Calzones are just a variation of our favourite homemade pizzas. The only difference is that the dough is folded over to make a sort of ‘pizza dumpling’ and then baked in the oven with all the ingredients tucked inside. This is another great way to encourage children to eat their veggies.

IMG_20160531_133540 IMG_20160531_133711


~ Sweet Treat ~
And sometimes for a treat (or when Nathan begs me to), I mix up a batch of gingerbread men dough for the kids to decorate. And then they can pretend to be the sly fox who gobbles them up.

IMG_20160531_212548 IMG_20160531_135750

 


If you enjoyed this post, you can check out last month’s roundup of activities and more of my other play and learning ideas. Stay tuned for next month’s roundup!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Determination, resourcefulness and tenacity

I am just bursting with pride over my little man.

Do you notice something shiny worn by the cool superhero character in this picture below?

IMG_20160525_211802

Our big winner!

And truly well deserved.

So this week was the cross country race event at Nathan’s school. For the pre-primary and lower-primary aged kids, the school had planned a ‘Superhero Fun Run’. No place awards for winners of the run, however prizes would be awarded for the three best dressed superheroes.

For the past couple of weeks leading up to the Fun Run, Nathan had been going on and on about what superhero he wanted to dress up as for the run. Iron Man.

Now being the practical mum, I gently tried to talk Nathan into dressing up as Spiderman since he already had  a terrific Spidey costume given to him by his grandparents.

Nathan a.k.a. ‘Tony Stark’ would NOT be talked out of it. His mind was made up.

However I was firm that I would not go out to buy a brand new costume just for this.

“But mummy, we can make the costume ourselves! I know how we can do it…”

Make the costume? My mind started racing through all the logistical options for making the costume. The materials. The fabric. The embellishments. The time.

“Nathan, I’m not sure if…”

“Really mummy, we just need to find some cardboard… cut out the shape for the body and then paint it red… I will do the painting… and then we can cut out a round thing for his chest…”

Nathan rambled on and on in detail of how we would assembly the various components of his costume. I was only half paying attention at this stage. I would just have to look on Pinterest later for some ideas.

“Okay… I’ll see what we can do… but I won’t have much time to do it all the time, so you’ll have to work on it bit by bit every day after school…”

“I will mummy! I will! I promise!”

Later on at home, Nathan started rummaging through our scrap box to find a piece of cardboard. He found one in the perfect size. He asked me for some red paint. I was busy getting the other little ones settled down for their afternoon tea, changing nappies and so on. But I decided that it would probably be a good little side project to keep Nathan occupied until I had time to look into it myself.

“Alright, here’s the paint. But you will have to do all the painting yourself…”

“I will mummy! And I’ll be really careful not to make a mess…”

He ended up doing a pretty good job with the painting. So we set it aside to dry in the meantime. The next day, Nathan checked on it and asked for another little something to add to his project. Almost every day after school, he would prompt me about the costume, asking for this or that.

And so the week passed.

His costume ended up looking pretty good. For a cardboard version.

But at the back of my mind, I was still thinking of sewing or putting together something a bit more ‘proper’. Though I didn’t say this out loud to him.

The last weekend before the Fun Run, I had planned to pick up some bits and pieces from the swap mart or make a stop at Spotlight for some fabric. However that weekend turned out to be the big winter storm of the season in Perth. So we stayed safely tucked in at home instead.

Finally on the day before the Fun Run, the best I could do was to find a red shirt to go with his costume and to give his teacher a heads up on his cardboard costume in case it happened to start raining or if he seemed to have any trouble running with the costume on.

Nathan wore his costume proudly to school that morning.

He didn’t bat a single eyelid at all the other store bought Supermans, Batmans and Ninja Turtles. We even spotted two other store-bought Iron Man figures.

Thankfully the weather turned out beautifully that morning. So I figured he would not run into any major issues with his costume. I just hoped the rubber band straps on the cardboard would hold up during all tat running.

Finally at the end of the day as I waited with my troops outside his classroom to pick him up… my little superhero emerged jubilantly holding up a shiny round medal around his neck and big prize bag.

“He won a prize for one of the three best dressed costumes!” his teacher called out.

“WOW!!! Really??? That is amazing!!!”

“Oh yes! They saw the effort that must have gone into making the costume, and that was really what they were looking for!”

On the way home I told Nathan,

“Nathan, I am so proud of you for winning this prize. I remember how you told me your idea for making the Iron Man costume yourself and how you would paint it and cut out all the pieces to stick together. Even though I was busy and couldn’t help you all the time, you still did it.”

Nathan a.k.a. Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man grinned proudly from ear to ear.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

All mine

I sometimes feel bad for my baby girl being our second child. Right from the start, our attention (though not our love) would often have to be divided with another sibling already in the family. And of course on most days of the week, mummy’s attention would often have to be shared between other ‘adopted siblings’ in our family day care.

Of course she never complains. How could she? In her mind, this is the way things are and always have been. And she’s perfectly happy and content being surrounded by other little ones to play with and share our love with.

At the start of the year, one of the ‘new’ things I decided to do was to scale back my work hours. It was a difficult decision to make considering the current financial circumstances, economic climate and individual circumstances of some families. But I think it was the right decision to make in our present season of life.

Many people have been asking me how I’ve been enjoying having my Fridays off. And I tell them it’s so good. I no longer frequently have that ‘burnt-out’ feeling at the end of the week. The weekends feel more relaxed instead of being packed to brim with running errands and shopping for groceries.

But my favourite thing about Fridays is being able to spend some solid uninterrupted time with this little girl…

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As her baby years slowly slip away, I know I will regret it if I don’t look for every opportunity I can to just soak up her baby-ness before it disappears forever.

Last Friday was just one of those perfect, uneventful, leisurely days spent together——with just the two of us.

A slowly leisurely morning walk around the neighbourhood after dropping big brother Nathan off at school. No rush. No hurry. Taking the time to examine every interesting leaf or flower along the way.

A chilled out mid-morning story time session at the library. Just sitting together listening to the stories being read aloud. Taking our time over the craft activity. Reading a book or two together before choosing which ones to take home.

A relaxed stroll through the grocery aisles at the shops together. Gracie contentedly munching away on a juicy pear and pointing out the various items on display. Occasionally asking to stop to examine a particularly interesting object that catches her attention.

A late morning stop at the park on the way home. Running around to explore every nook and corner. Taking time to try out every feature of the playground equipment. Rounding off the morning with a picnic lunch together.

Then finally home for a story and a nap.

For a few precious hours…

She can have mummy all to herself.

And my baby can be all mine.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Tomorrow

So our little Grace is growing and thriving wonderfully… in beauty, intelligence and her own distinct quirkiness. Her big brother has always been a big sweetheart. But Gracie… how can I even begin to describe this wacky, weird, kooky, droll little oddball character.

GraceUmbrella

Lately, Grace has developed this thing about ‘tomorrow’.

It’s quite interesting actually.

You see children’s memories are very fluid. They live moment to moment. Only focusing on the here and now. Young children in particular tend to think in a ‘fixed mindset’. Which means that they don’t naturally assume things can or will change. Sometimes in a particularly tough moment, they can feel overwhelmed by the situation or their own emotions. As they grow and develop, and with some help and guidance, they eventually begin to develop their inner sense of empowerment to find their own way to navigate their way through such emotions or situations. [source]

Grace is now finding her own way to gain a sense of inner empowerment over any tough emotions or situations she cannot control. And she is finding it in her use of the word ‘tomorrow’: i.e. situations or things can and will change ‘tomorrow’. She will usually repeat a version of her ‘tomorrow’ phrase to us and to herself to help ward off a tantrum or meltdown. It’s a groundbreaking thing to observe her use ‘tomorrow’ as method to gain her composure, beyond just retreating to a corner with teddy. This is growth, people. Growth.

(Note: Grace’s use of the word ‘tomorrow’ is generally not meant in a literal sense as she is still learning to grasp the concept time in a concrete way. But it’s her way of indicating a future event or point in time.)

Here are some examples of how she does this…

Grace: Can I go and play outside?
Mum: No, it’s getting late and it’s time to get ready for dinner.
Grace: *Begins to cry* I want go outside!
Mum: No. It’s time to be inside now.
Grace: *Teary voice* I can go play outside tomorrow?
Mum: Yes, you can play outside tomorrow.
Grace: *Strained voice* Okay, mummy. *sniff sniff*

[Later on…]
Grace: Mummy, can I have sweet?
Mum: No. Dinner is almost ready.
Grace: *Eyes welling up with tears* I can have sweet tomorrow?
Mum: Yes, you can have a sweet tomorrow.
Grace: Okay, mummy. *sniff sniff*

[Later in the evening after dinner and bath…]
Grace: *Holding my face between her hands and staring straight into my eyes* Muuuuummy???
Mum: Yes, Gracie?
Grace: *Whispering* I hungry.
Mum: Hungry? But you just had dinner!
Grace: *Pathetic look on face* But I so huuuuungry! I want FOOOOOD!
Mum: No more food now. But you can have some milk.
Grace: *Mouth turned down sadly* I can have food tomorrow?
Mum: Yes. You can have food tomorrow.
Grace: Okay, mummy. *sniff sniff*

[Grace loves sultanas. She sometimes even shoves them down her mouth by the handful. She will often ask for a small pile of them to munch on after breakfast…]
Grace: Mummy, can I have more sultanas?
Mum: That’s enough sultanas for today. It’s time to come down and play.
Grace: *Lip starts to quiver* I can have sultanas tomorrow?
Mum: Yes. You can have more sultanas tomorrow.
Grace: Okay, mummy. *sniff sniff*

[Grace is currently going through a skirt/dress obsession. Most mornings she will ask to wear a skirt. But it sometimes puts a bit of strain on the wardrobe and laundry…]
Grace: Mummy, can I wear skirt?
Mum: Sorry Grace, all your skirts are in the wash.
Grace: *Sad face* I can wear skirt tomorrow?
Mum: Yes. You can wear a skirt tomorrow.
Grace: Okay, mummy. *sniff sniff*

[Grace is also going through the “I do it myself!” stage. She is very independent. But unfortunately not all her fine motor are fully caught up with her independent spirit just yet...]
Mum: Okay, time to go. Please put on your shoes and get into the car, children.
Nathan: Grace, let me help you put on your shoes.
Grace: *Screeching* No! I do it! I wear my shoes BY MYSELF!
[Grace struggles to fasten the straps on her shoes before finally admitting defeat…]
Mum: Grace, let kor-kor help you. These shoes are a bit tricky.
Grace: *Teary-eyed and defeated voice* I wear my shoes tomorrow?
Mum: Yes. You can try again and wear your shoes tomorrow.
Grace: Okay, mummy. *sniff sniff*

[Five minutes later in the car…]
Nathan: Let me help buckle on your seatbelt, Grace.
Grace: *Screeching* No! I do it! I wear my seatbelt BY MYSELF!
Mum: Grace, you still need help with your seatbelt. You can buckle them on yourself when you are bigger.
[Grace bawls her eyes out while Nathan and I click on her seatbelt…]
Grace: *Crestfallen look on her teary face* I can wear seatbelt tomorrow?
Mum: Yes. You can wear your seatbelt yourself tomorrow--when you are bigger.
Grace: Okay, mummy. *sniff sniff*

[Nathan heading out the door for school…]
Nathan: Bye! I’m going to school now! See you later!
Mum: Bye Nathan! I love you!
Grace: Bye kor-kor! I miss you!
[Grace then turns to me and looks at me very seriously…]
Grace: Mummy, I go to school tomorrow.
Mum: You will go to school when you turn four.
Grace: Okay, mummy. When I am four. Tomorrow.

 

*****

The sun will come out tomorrow,
Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow—
There'll be sun.

Just thinkin' about tomorrow—
Clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow,
'til there's none.

When I'm stuck with a day that's grey and lonely,
I just stick up my chin and grin and say, oh—

The sun will come out tomorrow,
So you gotta hang on—
'til tomorrow, come what may!

Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I love ya tomorrow,
You're only a day away!

-- From ‘Annie’ --

*****

P.S. A lovely modernised version of the classic song ‘Tomorrow’

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Someday is finally here!

HEY, HEY, HEY!!!

Bring out the champagne!!!

Pop the party poppers!!!

It’s celebration time!!!

WOOHOOOOOO!!!

Because…

SOMEDAY is finally here!!!!!!

the wishing chair

Years ago I made a list of books I want to read to my children someday. Which included this old classic favourite. When Nathan turned three, I made an attempt at reading a chapter or two out loud to him… which kind of fizzled. So I tucked my beloved book away. Someday was not here yet.

Fast forward two years later.

Earlier this year, I tracked down a copy of the book from the library which had coloured illustrations and decided to give it another go.

I told Nathan that this book used to be one of my favourite books I loved to read when I was a little girl… (Yes, yes, I know, I did do a little bit of a shameless sell of the book). It peaked his curiosity… or maybe he was just being the nice little guy he is and agreed to let me read a chapter out loud.

And now he’s hooked.

I am so, so, incredibly stoked.

I think I am the one who looks forward the most to our regular readings of each chapter throughout the week.

The kids can probably sense my excitement and enthusiasm over these readings. And they lap it all in.

At the end of each chapter we read, Nathan always flips the page and asks me to read out the title of the next chapter. “We will read it tomorrow Grace then declares solemnly.

I love it.

Although it’s sometimes hard saying goodbye to the baby years, it’s also wonderful to think about the awesome things to look forward to sharing with them in the years to come.

And reading these favourite books with my kids is like opening a window back to my childhood.

There are precious few things in the world that can do that.

That is true magic.

I am so excited to be travelling with my two small companions to chocolate factories, giant peaches, magic wardrobes, tea parties on the ceiling, frontier prairies, rabbit holes, yellow brick roads and wizarding schools.

 

A CHILDREN’S STORY
THAT CAN ONLY BE
ENJOYED BY CHILDREN
IS NOT A GOOD CHILDREN’S
STORY IN THE SLIGHTEST

- C.S. Lewis -

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Last Time

So we have decided. This is it. We are a family of four.

Once the baby of the family moves beyond toddlerhood, it’s normal to receive the usual onslaught of questions on “So, when are you having the next one?”.

In the early years of our marriage, hubs tried to convince me that we should set out to have four kids. Because he grew up in a family of four kids. I bargained it down to three. Because I grew up in a family of three kids. Plus, my main line of reasoning is that three is the maximum number you can have sitting in the backseat of a regular car without having to upgrade to a seven-seater.

Now we have two.

And I can honestly say, it feels complete.

A family of four. Four people. Two plus two. Two big people. Two little people. Two girls. Two boys.

When people ask me the inevitable question. I don’t feel the need to cringe or shy away.

I simply say it as it is. My baby making shop is closed. Our family feels complete.

So… no more babies!

No more babies, you say?

Woohoo!!!

No more morning sickness, backaches and midnight leg cramps. No more sore bottoms, sore nipples and sore eyes. No more midnight feeds, witching hours and cluster feeds. No more wonder weeks and baby blues.

But spin it another way.

No more babies.

Because once in a while, I still have my wistful moments.

With both my babies, the defining moment for me would always be that first night at the hospital. It was just the two of us. All alone. One tiny light shining over us. A blanket of darkness all around us. Neither of us had our baths yet. It was all skin-to-skin. Our mutual scents all intermingled. Snuggling as close as possible to each other. Clinging tightly to one another. Breathing each other in. Not wanting to be parted from each other even for a split second. We were almost like one person. After all, just a few short hours ago, one of us was literally inside the other.

That velvet baby scent was just so intoxicating.

All it took was a little whiff of that scent to keep me going through the midnight cries, round-the-clock feeds and non-stop kangaroo cuddles.

It’s like a highly addictive primal olfactory drug.

But one I am deciding never to get a hit of ever again.

It only works on your own babies.

Other people’s babies may smell good. But they never have the same primal, addictive effect as your own.

Sometimes at night when I go to check on my babies asleep in their beds, I tiptoe quietly over and breathe in deeply to try and get another hit of that intoxicating baby scent.

But as time passes, and my babies grew, that scent inevitably slowly starts to fade. Fainter and fainter and fainter. Now barely detectable underneath the smell of warm milky breaths, sweaty limbs, strawberry-scented soap and orangey-minty toothpaste. Maybe all I am smelling now is just the memory of that once intoxicating baby scent. And I will never really know when was actually the last time that I breathed in that real baby scent.

 

The Last Time

From the moment you hold your baby in your arms,
you will never be the same.
You might long for the person you were before,
When you have freedom and time,
And nothing in particular to worry about.

You will know tiredness like you never knew it before,
And days will run into days that are exactly the same,
Full of feedings and burping,
Nappy changes and crying,
Whining and fighting,
Naps or a lack of naps,
It might seem like a never-ending cycle.

But don’t forget…
There is a last time for everything.
There will come a time when you will feed
your baby for the very last time.
They will fall asleep on you after a long day
And it will be the last time you ever hold your sleeping child.

One day you will carry them on your hip then set them down,
And never pick them up that way again.
You will scrub their hair in the bath one night
And from that day on they will want to bathe alone.
They will hold your hand to cross the road,
Then never reach for it again.
They will creep into your room at midnight for cuddles,
And it will be the last night you ever wake to this.

One afternoon you will sing “the wheels on the bus”
and do all the actions,
Then never sing them that song again.
They will kiss you goodbye at the school gate,
The next day they will ask to walk to the gate alone.
You will read a final bedtime story and wipe your last dirty face.
They will run to you with arms raised for the very last time.

The thing is, you won’t even know it’s the last time
Until there are no more times.
And even then, it will take you a while to realise.

So while you are living in these times,
remember there are only so many of them
and when they are gone, you will yearn for just one more day of them.
For one last time.

-Author Unknown-

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Mother’s Day Interview with Nathan and Grace

Hello! Happy Mother’s Day to all you gorgeous mums. I salute you for your vastly underrated superpowers of magic healing kisses, the ability to go into super-stealth mode during nap times, having invisible eyes at the back of your head, and having a sixth sense for mischief even (or especially) during moments of absolute silence.

supermomimage source

I stumbled across this adorable set of questions to ask your child about mummy and of course the first thing I thought of was to try it out on my own two wacky kids.

My two little wackos are absolutely crazy over each other. However often during our conversations, they can drive each other (and me) crazy interrupting one another, trying to talk over each other and yelling for a turn to get a word in.

So like the clever girl I am, this is what I told them: “Hey children, let’s play a game!” [Yeah! Hooray! I love games!] “I’m going to put this piece of sticky tape over your mouth. Then I will ask you both a question. When it’s your turn to talk, I will open the sticky tape so you can answer the question. And then we’ll close the sticky tape again until it’s time to answer the next question.” [Yeah! I want the sticky tape! Put on the sticky tape mummy!!!].

Supermum Tip: Any weird stunt you want to pull off can be fun if you turn it into a game. NB: Nathan is five and Grace is almost three. So these clever mummy tricks can still work on them. Also, I made Grace go first with each question because she has a tendency to copy or mimic her older brother.

So anyway here are their answers…

  1. What is something mum always says to you?
    Grace: Kiss me!
    Nathan: I love you always.
     
  2. What makes mum happy?
    Grace: Hug me!
    Nathan: When I give her presents.
     
  3. What makes mum sad?
    Grace: Crying.
    Nathan: When I do naughty things.
     
  4. How does mum make you laugh?
    Grace: Like this… Muahahahaha!!!
    Nathan: When she laughs, I laugh too.
     
  5. What was mum like as a child?
    Grace: Like a ballerina.
    Nathan: Maybe you had long hair and you had a little body like me.
     
  6. How old is mum?
    Grace: Two!
    Nathan: One hundred? No, I think it’s ten.
     
  7. How tall is mum?
    Grace: She is bigger and bigger and bigger!
    Nathan: This long! (stretching his arms wide)
     
  8. What is her favourite thing to do?
    Grace: Play
    !
    Nathan: Eat.
     
  9. What does mum do when you’re not around?
    Grace: Play!
    Nathan: I think she will like to look for me.
     
  10. What is mum really good at?
    Grace: Play!
    Nathan: Reading books.
     
  11. What is mum not very good at?
    Grace: Be sad.
    Nathan: I don’t know?
     
  12. What does you mum do for  job?
    Grace: Play!
    Nathan: Look after kids.
     
  13. What is your mum’s favourite food?
    Grace: Pasta!
    Nathan: I’m not sure. Toast?
     
  14. What makes you proud of your mum?
    Grace: Do funny face.
    Nathan: You cook nice things for me.
     
  15. If your mum was a character, who would she be?
    Grace: Superman!
    Nathan: Supergirl.
     
  16. What do you and your mum do together?
    Grace: Run and run and run and run!
    Nathan: Read.
     
  17. How are you and mum the same?
    Grace: Drive the car. (huh?)
    Nathan: We have the same hair.
     
  18. How are you and mum different?
    Grace: Driving the car. (???)
    Nathan: We don’t have the same face. We are not the same height.
     
  19. How do you know your mum loves you?
    Grace: Forever!!!
    Nathan: Cos’ she told me that.
     
  20. What does your mum like most about your dad?
    Grace: Feelin’ good…
    Nathan: He loves you.
     
  21. I love mummy because…
    Grace: Because you kiss me and hug me.
    Nathan: Cos’ you love me.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Roundup of some of our homemade loose parts play

For this month’s play roundup, here is a quick photo post of a few of our favourite homemade loose parts* for play. (*In the early childhood education setting, loose parts are simply open ended materials or items that can be combined, redesigned or lined up in multiple ways for play).


 Yoghurt bottle tops

I built up this collection gradually over time from the squeezy yoghurt pouches I pack in Nathan’s lunch box. I get Nathan to save them and take them home for me to wash and stash away in our collection. The children enjoy playing with these in a myriad of ways--colour sorting, counting, pretend cooking, lining up in patterns and so on.

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*****

Coloured pasta

You can find heaps of DIY articles on Pinterest for making your own coloured pasta. Just regular dry pasta mixed with some food colouring and vinegar. They make a very pretty collection of loose parts for open ended play. Apart from playing pretend cooking and sorting with these, the children also thread them on string to make necklaces and bracelets.

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*****

Scrap fabric and pom-poms

Just a couple of baskets set out with some colourful scrap fabric and pom-poms for the children to explore and imagine with. I arranged some of the fabric in little cups and added a little tray of straws by way of a suggested pretend juice bar play. In the end the children of course came up with their own creations and concoctions with the materials.

DSC07990

*****

Hot cocoa and marshmallows

Sometimes I arrange the loose parts in a specific play invitation setting. In this case, I used some brown fabric and large styrofoam pieces to set up a little café serving hot cocoa with marshmallows. The older preschoolers gravitated to the pretend play set up immediately, while the younger toddlers simply enjoyed the process of exploring the material with the tongs and spoons.

DSC07993

*****

Spaghetti and meatballs

For this set up, I used yarn for the noodles, brown pom-poms for the meatballs and some felt pieces for the cheese, tomato and vegies. Just like the previous scenario, the older preschoolers caught onto the set up immediately, while the younger toddlers simply enjoyed exploring the material at their own pace.

PretendNoodles

 


If you enjoyed this post you can check out more play and learning ideas and also other favourite homemade loose part materials such as our DIY play muslins and mini bean bags.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Funtastic ‘Bunchems’ Play Invitation

{ This Product Talk is brought to you by Nuffnang and Funtastic ‘Bunchems’ }

At our place we do a fair amount of art & craft and sensory & messy play. It does involve a bit of work, especially with the clean up. But the children all love it and it’s good for them too… getting all their creative juices flowing, practising their hand-eye coordination skills, stimulating their various senses.

Though sometimes, it’s also nice to have a break from all the clean up and mess-management. So when I came across ‘Bunchems’, I was immediately intrigued. All the creative, crafty, hands-on play with some funky-looking material without any of the icky-sticky-gooey mess.

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The Bunchems Mega Pack comes with:

400 pieces of little Bunchems;
36 accessories to embellish your creations with;
And one ideas booklet.

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I laid out everything on our big play table as a ‘Bunchems Play Invitation’. My little ones were so excited they could hardly finish their afternoon tea in their eagerness to begin playing with the little ‘spiky pom-poms’ as they called them.

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The pieces are fairly intuitive to work with. Just like the name, you simple bunch ‘em together to make whatever you like. Each little Bunchem piece is covered with tiny hooked spikes which grab hold of each other when attached.

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Five-year-old Nathan got the hang of it almost immediately——coming up with ideas on what to make, figuring out how to arrange the pieces and positioning them in the right way to attach the various accessories on. It was so much fun exploring the different accessories and thinking of creations to make use of each accessory.

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One of my three-and-half year old girls also got the hang of how the pieces work fairly quickly. Though she needed a bit of guidance on coordinating the accessories and positioning the pieces in the right way to attach the accessories on.

DSC08576

And it’s amazing just what a few features and accessories can transform a simple clump of Bunchems into. It’s all about accessorising!

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The two and three year olds were eager to be part of the action as well. They enjoyed exploring the unusual texture of the spiky Bunchem pieces and attempting to stick them together. They were more focused on the process of attaching the Bunchem pieces together rather than the end result—-which is typical of younger children around that age anyway.

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I had sort of anticipated this, so I already prepared some containers, bowls and utensils in the play invitation for the younger children to incorporate into their play and exploration process. They used the tongs and spoons to pick up the pieces and collect them into the different bowls and containers.

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The Early Childhood Educator side in me can already see opportunities for colour sorting games, counting, shape recognition activities with the little ones using these Bunchems.

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The children then further extended the play into their own pretend and role play, doing some cooking in the play kitchen using the Bunchems. I was treated to a variety of colourful Bunchem cakes, soups and ice cream.

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Funtasic ‘Bunchems’ are definitely a highly versatile and construction toy, craft material and open-ended pieces for imaginative play. I am glad to have it included in our collection of creative-play toys and materials to support the learning and development of the children under my care.

If you can think it, you can create it with Bunchems!

 

Some closing thoughts on Funtastic ‘Bunchems’…

I personally like Funtastic ‘Bunchems’. They are a fun and engaging toy and are a unique combination of construction-type toys and creative-sensory-type material.

The recommended age of 4+ for this toy is pretty spot on. My five-year-old son was able to engage with the toy very quickly and easily to create and construct with them. The under four-year-olds enjoyed the toy from a sensory and explorative perspective, but generally did not focus on constructing anything in particular with the pieces--though they thoroughly enjoyed playing with it anyway in their own way.

Based on my observations on how the different children under my care engaged with the toy, I would say Bunchems is somewhat a tad bit more of a girls’ toy. Boys definitely enjoy the wacky side of Bunchems-- coming up with weird and interesting creations. However they might find limitations in the types of constructions they can build with the Bunchems pieces which allow them to extend their creations into more solid, action-type play. This is strictly my own personal opinion based only on my observations of the boys in my care. And every boy is different after all. I do not intend to gender-stereotype in any kind of way. I always strive to minimise gender-stereotype play while at the same time respecting the fact that boys and girls are different. Bottom line is still that both girls AND boys will certainly enjoy Bunchems as an open-ended toy and craft material to fuel their creativity and imaginative play.

I’ve heard some of the cautionary stories and news about the dangers of Bunchems due to the fact they can get badly tangled in hair and clothes. I had seen some images circulated around of a girl’s hair all horrifically frayed and tangled up with Bunchem pieces. The children under my care don’t seem inclined at all to putting stuff in their hair so I would say the risk of a drama like this happening is not dangerously high. But I suppose you’ll never know what kids can get up to when left to their own devices. If you or your kids ever find yourself in this situation, just refer to this tutorial on how to get those clingy pieces out of your (or their) hair. 

{ I received this product in exchange for a review but my opinions are completely genuine and honest }

Sunday, April 17, 2016

I love your funny face

If there was one person in the world who could beat me at being a drama queen, it’s this little person…

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Most of the time, it’s the best fun ever having a little drama queen. But there are times when we get a bit too much drama to handle. But nothing that a little cuddle time time with teddy can’t fix.

*****

One of our current favourite family games is ‘Funny Face’. Basically I just call out an expression or emotion (“make a happy/sad/angry/scared/surprised face”) and the kids would make that face.

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Two-and-a-half year old Grace is pretty good at this game. Though sometimes she and her big brother crack each other too much they end up in a mess of giggles and silliness to keep up with the game.

*****

One morning a few weeks back, I headed over to Grace’s bedroom to get her out of bed as part of our usual morning routine.

This was the sight that greeted my eyes…

IMG_20160325_141441{ Crime scene re-enacted by the primary suspect }

Me: Grace!!! What happened??? Who did this???
Grace: Errrr… Gracie.
Me: What were you doing, Grace?
Grace: I break my pillow?
Me: Why did you break your pillow?
Grace: Because it got broken here (pointing to a hole in the middle of her pillow)
Me: (*face palm*) Sigh.

*****

Another time while I was cleaning up in the kitchen while my little charges were busily playing together, there was a sudden cry and yelp of pain from one of the little boys. I hurried over to see what had happened. I found three-year-old ‘J’ bawling his eyes out with Grace standing next to him holding a toy magic wand in her hand.

Me: Why is ‘J’ crying?
Nathan: Gracie knocked him on the head with her wand--I saw her!
(After calming ‘J’ down and checking his injury which was mostly just emotional)
Me: Grace, I can see that ‘J’ is feeling very sad and upset.
Grace: Yeah.
Me: Why do you think ‘J’ is feeling sad and upset?
Grace: (very seriously and earnestly) Because I turn him into a fwog.
Me: (trying very, very hard to keep a straight face) I see. Maybe next time you can just pretend to tap him with your wand. Just wave it over him like this. Okay?
Grace: Okay.

*****

Another time, as I was loading some clothes into the washing machine, I glanced down the hallway and caught sight of little Gracie sliding on her tummy across the floor, hands pinned straight down her sides. I watched her for a good 30 seconds sliding down the hallway in that manner wondering what she was up to this time. She glanced up at me and saw me staring at her. She flashed me the biggest grin and said“Mummy, I’m a snake!”

*****

Sometimes after a meal, Grace ends up in a pretty messy state. One time, the mess was so bad it was all over her shirt and shorts. So after cleaning her up, I stripped her down to her nappy to toss her clothes into the wash. Grace patted her bare belly and piped “Look mummy! I got no shirt! Just like a monkey! O0-oo-aa-aa!”

*****

Last month, I organised an Easter egg hunt with my kids during the week leading up to Easter. We started out with a craft activity making their Easter egg baskets for the hunt. While we were making the baskets, I chatted to the children about the Easter egg hunt…

Me: Where do you think the eggs will be hidden?]
J: I don't know.
S: Maybe in the cubby house?
H: In the cubby house!
Grace: No, it's not in the cubby house. It's in mummy's bag! (very perceptive)
Me: What colour eggs will you find?
S: Blue and pink!
H: Pink!
J: Red!
Grace: So many!

*****

Last week we had a very wet and rainy spell. Nathan, Grace and myself were enjoying our breakfast on one particularly stormy and rainy morning.

Nathan: I like the smell of rain.
Me: Me too. What do you like about the smell of rain?
Nathan: It smells so nice and cool.
Grace: I like the smell of thunder!
Me: Oh, what does thunder smell like?
Grace: It smell like this… BOOM!!! Aaahahahahahaha!!! (cracking herself up)
Nathan and me:  {-_-}

*****

Sigh. I love you oh so much my funny little girl.

saronggirls

P.S. A song dedicated to this little funny face

You've got all the qualities of Peter Pan
I'd look far before I'd find a sweeter pan

I love your funny face
Your sunny, funny face
Though you're a cutie with more than beauty
You've got a lot of personality for me

You fill the air with smiles
For miles and miles and miles
Though you're no Mona Lisa
For worlds I'd not replace
Your sunny, funny face

{ Fred Astaire - Funny Face }

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What we’ve been up to – monthly roundup

We’ve had another busy month with lots of play and learning at our place. This month, most of the key activities have been centred around some of our favourite books we’ve been reading. Here’s a little roundup of a few of my favourite activities we’ve been up to this month.


~ The Artist Who Painted A Blue Horse ~

Eric Carle books are always a big favourite at our place. The children really enjoyed identifying the various animals pictured in the ‘The Artist Who Painted A Blue Horse’ and naming the surprising colours of each animal. A blue horse? A green lion? A purple fox? I personally found this book to be a great tool for reinforcing learning the names of colours through identifying the unusual colours of each familiar animal in the story.

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I prompted the children to share and talk about what animal they would choose to paint and what colour they would paint it. Each child eagerly shared their choice of animals and colour to come up with really fantastic and unusual animal colours—- A PINK RABBIT! AN ORANGE LION! A YELLOW CHICKEN!

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As a follow on activity, we did some painting (of course). We experimented with some colour mixing with primary colours, as well as painting with unusual objects such as toothbrushes, sponges, forks and even matchbox cars. We used the various tools to create patterns and lines on our paint to create some textured coloured paper. Afterwards, we snipped and tore the painted textured paper to make animal collages just like the multi-coloured animals painted by Eric Carle in his book.

*****

~ Humpty Dumpty ~

What child is not familiar with this classic tale of this clumsy little egg. My children all know this rhyme by heart but never tire of reading and singing it again and again with me. They would always ask to stop at the page showing poor Humpty all fallen down and cracked, so concerned over his broken state. “He needs sticky tape!” Grace would usually tell me matter-of-factly (NB: sticky tape happens to be her personal favourite magic solution for anything and everything).

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I’ve always played the rhyme out with all my children since they were babies with my own made up actions: bouncing them gently on a cushion or chair (as Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall), then bounce them off gently onto the floor (as Humpty had a great fall), and tickling them heartily (as the King’s Horses and King’s Men tried to put Humpty together again). They absolutely loved this game. And still do.

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We played the story out with some toy plastic eggs and a wall we made from jumbo blocks. They children played it out countless times and laughed every time they made the eggs go tumbling off the wall. Then I took things to the next level by bringing out some REAL eggs (with drawn on character faces) for them to play out the story. You can just imagine their excitement. For easy clean up, I placed a large bowl below a wooden chopping board which I stood upright as a wall. Then the children took turns to hold the egg at the edge of the board and let it fall on cue as we chanted the rhyme together. It was a huge hit. Figuratively and literally. They were so fascinated to observe the effect of the egg cracking to pieces each time they let one drop. Now they understand for sure why all the King’s Horses and Men couldn’t put Humpty together again.

After the egg cracking ceremony, I let the children take turns to whisk the eggs up, then we carried them over to the kitchen and they watched as I poured the whisked eggs into a pan with some potatoes I had precooked to make some Spanish tortillas to eat for lunch later.

That week also happened to be the one leading up to Easter, so everything tied in together nicely to do some egg painting and decorating (with hardboiled eggs) to make our own little Humpty Dumpty eggs to take home.

*****

~ Go Away Big Green Monster ~

This particular book was my personal favourite this month. Ever since the dawn of Sesame Street, monsters have kept growing cuter and funnier than ever over time. This book by Ed Emberly ‘Go Away Big Green Monster’ is so simple yet engaging. The story is also a great tool for teaching and reinforcing learning the names and positions of facial features.

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I have to admit that the whole monster theme idea stemmed from the children themselves. One morning as we were enjoying some outdoor play time, A couple of the children, together with my Gracie, came up with this elaborate story about a monster in the cubby house and ran over to report it to me. They described it in detail (with a bit of prompting from me) from it’s colour, to the number of eyes and ears it had, down to it’s favourite food. They even gave it a name: Dabbick Monster. They kept going on and on about it and later on even drew pictures of it to show me.

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So I took the bait. Let’s have some monster fun! I discovered the Ed Emberly book through some research and even found a terrific read-along YouTube video of the book. We practiced putting together the monster face and placing each facial feature in the correct position using the feltboard and chalkboard.

I set up a create-your-own-monster activity with play dough, laminated monster features and various loose parts. We made monster masks with some ‘Go Away Big Green Monster’ printables and rounded off the activity with a dance session of ‘Four little monsters jumping on the bed’. Our place was literally crawling with little monsters!

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If you enjoyed this post, you can check out last month’s roundup of activities and more of my other play and learning ideas. Stay tuned for next month’s roundup!

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Life and its ebbs and flows

Many, many years ago, at a small group meeting of one of the previous churches I attended before I was married, the group leader called out the usual invitation for people to ‘share’ any personal testimonies or words of encouragement with the group. As each person jumped in to share one after another, each sharing was received with applause or jubilant ‘hallelujahs’. God is good. Life is good. So-and-so were having a tough time recently but their prayers were answered and life is fantastic now.

I was still very new to the group, but that evening I plucked up my courage and raised my hand. “Yes, sister? What would you like to share?” the leader piped up exuberantly. All eyes were upon me, looking at me expectantly. I took a deep breath and decided to go out on a limb and share something a bit different – a personal difficulty I was going through in my life at that time. I cannot recall the details exactly, but I knew it had something to do with work. And I was going through a really tough time. After all, this was a church group. A support network, right? The best way to connect with others is to open up and be yourself.

Wrong move.

As I ended my short monologue. All I received was dead silence. Not even the sound of crickets singing in the background.

“Errrrr… ooooookie… thank you, sister… let’s move on shall we?” the group leader finally chimed in awkwardly.

I have never forgotten that very awkward and stinging episode.

But over the years. I grew to learn the truth.

People rarely open up.

People rarely share the truth.

They rarely share bad news. Even if they do. Its often cushioned and cloaked in positivity. Or it is shared only after the worst is over and they can look back in retrospect over what they learnt or gained from the experience.

Bottom line. No one likes being vulnerable.

On the other hand…

We are often encouraged to ‘be authentic’… ‘keep it real’… ‘be yourself’…

Of course there are many versions of ‘self’ you can have. Especially as adults. With kids, you pretty much get just the one version, until the complexities of adolescence emerge. The trick is knowing and deciding which version to display at what time and where and with who... read more »