Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My little scavenger

DSC05590

One quiet morning, I decided to liven things up with a fun little activity. So I pulled together a simple scavenger hunt. I geared Nathan up with a scavenger hunt list, pen (to mark things off his list) and hunting sack. The hat was his own addition.

 

Here is our scavenger hunt list

 

- Something GREEN

- Something BLUE

- Something RED

- Something SOFT

- Something with WHEELS

- Something with letters (ABC) on it

- Something shaped like a BOX

 

 

I read out each item on the list for Nathan and explained what he had to do. I had to guide Nathan through the process for the first two items on the list. But he caught on pretty quick and was soon zipping around the house, collecting items and putting them into his ‘sack’.

 

The loot from our scavenger hunt

I think Nathan quite liked the activity. It definitely challenged his thinking and cognitive skills but also got him active and moving around. I plan to do an outdoor version next time round.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What I miss and what I don’t

So this week would have marked my ‘official’ end to my maternity leave since having baby #2. Over the past year, I’ve gone through quite a journey and made some life changing decisions to embark on a new career and business of starting my own family day care.

I had finally tendered my formal resignation at my former company as a market research analyst. Although I knew what was going to happen, there was a sense of finality in that act. Like finally hearing the heavy thud of that door shutting behind me, never looking back and moving forward in my new venture.

People have asked me if I’d miss my previous line of work. The answer is both ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

So here is a round up of what I do miss, what I don’t and what I should miss but don’t about my previous job (which might also give you a little bit of insight on me).

 

Three things I DO miss

Creating awesome Excel analytical models and data sheets. At the of risk sounding like a brag, I have to say that I was pretty awesome at it. The data models I had created in my previous line of work were truly works of art and things of beauty. I would definitely miss the level of sophistication I was able to exercise my Excel skills.

Designing beautiful reports, charts, tables and data visualisations. Many of the reports I wrote would potentially end up in the hands of really top people in the industry. These people are often time poor and are constantly surrounded by many reports vying for their attention. So it was important to put forward a report that hit all the right buttons and delivered a big ‘wow factor’ for them.

Lunch dates with hubby. In my previous job, hubby and I happen to work just a couple of blocks away from each other. So we were able to commute to work together and meet up for lunch on my working days. It was so wonderful to be able to chat and catch up without the kids. It was like going out on a date every week without worrying about the children’s bedtime routines and babysitters.

One of the views from behind the dashboard on our drive to work

Three things I will NOT miss

Commuting to work. Morning rush. Traffic jams. Hunting for parking. I am sooo glad I no longer have to deal with all that any more.

Deciding what to wear each day. I’m really NOT into clothes and shopping. And I generally prefer to prioritise sleep over preening over my make-up in the mornings. I admire those girls that glide into the office each day looking all shiny and lovely in their perfectly accessorised outfits, picture perfect make-up and beautifully coifed hair.

Having to answer to someone else. I’m really thankful I’ve been blessed with very understanding and supportive bosses, who have allowed me flexibility in my work hours to balance my time between work and parenting. Nevertheless, I always had a twang of guilt each time I had clock out of work on the dot to pick my son up from day care. And I felt absolutely awful if I had to take a day off to look after my son if he was ill. So I really relish this newfound independence in my new career.

 

Three things I SHOULD miss but don’t

Client or boss commendations and plaudits. Yes, it’s always nice to get that pat on the back or to receive a glowing recommendation from a well satisfied client. It SHOULD be the key thing that keeps me motivated in my job. But the truth is, I’m just a ‘head down, get on with the job’ kind of person. After completing and delivering a project, I simply want to dust my hands off the old job and get on with the next one.

Water cooler chit chat. I do enjoy good conversations and catching up with the news throughout the day. But being time poor and having to leave on precision timing to pick my son up from day care each day, unfortunately I have little time to spare. I probably come off as seeming aloof and cold to some people for this reason. But it is the unfortunate reality for most working mums.

Beer o’clock. First of all, I’m not a big beer drinker. And second of all, with time being a precious commodity, this is unfortunately another luxury I’m rarely able to indulge in. Plus I’m not really good with small talk or playing the game of who can tell the most entertaining stories and anecdotes.

This new venture is indeed a tremendous career and life change. In many ways, it’s a harder job than previous one. But I believe that the decision I made is the right one and I think I’m already gaining deeper joy and satisfaction in this new calling.

 

Linking up to Jess’s @ IBOT

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Baby ‘learns’ how to play on the slide

After months of careful observation of the older kids around her, baby is absolutely convinced that this is the only way slides are meant to be played with…

My little stunt baby

My baby girl is just less than a month away from turning one. I don’t know why, but she still seems so baby-like and little to me. Maybe it’s simply because she is my second baby and she will always be the baby next to her big brother. I forget how much she is growing until she pulls a daredevil stunt like this…

“Hi, mummy!”

Oh baby, please slow down! You’re moving on too fast for me.

 

Linking up to
Twinkle in the Eye & Little Drummer Boys

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Edible water beads sensory activity

image

It’s no secret that children just love sensory play. Especially the wet, messy, squishy sort of sensory play. The messier, the better! I’ve been very keen on getting some water beads for sensory play. However with babies around, I knew it wouldn’t be a good idea just yet.

Thanks to the wonders of Pinterest, I found the perfect alternative using this yummy ingredient: Tapioca pearls (used in making bubble tea) which you can get at any oriental supermarket.

Anyway, instead of just pre-cooking the pearls for the activity, I decided to involve the kids in the whole process from the start. First I opened the package and poured the pearls out into a large bowl and let the children investigate and explore it with their hands and fingers. We talked about how the pearls felt and looked.

Then I poured the pearls into a pot of boiling water to cook for five minutes. While they were cooking, the kids helped to set up the table with a variety of bowls, cups, containers and spoons.

After the tapioca pearls were cooked. This is what they looked like…

DSC05637

The children were more than happy to play and explore the pearls as they were. But I decided to add a boost of colour to them with a few drops of food colouring.

DSC05640

The kids dove right into the stuff eagerly. They spent ages pouring and scooping the little tapioca pearls into different containers, and mixing and stirring them together.

DSC05642(1)

They squished and smooshed them with their hands and laughed at the slippery texture. We talked about how the tapioca pearls felt now and how different they felt compared to before they were cooked.

DSC05647

After that Nathan asked if he could try one to see what it tasted like. I gave the okay and he immediately popped one into his mouth. He grinned at the squishy and chewy texture. The other kids soon followed suit and were popping them into their mouths one after another like candy.

The tapioca pearls actually taste very bland (no sugar or sweeteners in them) so I was surprised at how much the kids seemed to enjoy eating them. I eventually had to put a stop to it so as not to spoil their appetites for lunch.

DSC05654

Even the babies got into the action too after they had woken up from their morning nap. They squished and smooshed the stuff to their heart’s content and tasted it too of course (no drama about that since the stuff is completely edible).

DSC05650

If you’re looking for something fun and different to do with your kids, I definitely recommend giving this a go. It’s cheap, easy and really engaging.

 

Edible Water Beads Sensory Activity

Materials/Ingredients
Tapioca Pearls (available at oriental supermarkets for just around $2.00 a pack)
Water
Food colouring (optional)

Instructions/Preparation
Cook the pearls according to package instructions. Ours simply required cooking in boiling water for five minutes until the pearls floated to the surface. But check your package instructions to see if they vary.

Pour the cooked pearls into a colander to drain and run them under cold water for a few seconds to stop the cooking process and cool them down.

At this point the pearls are ready to be played with as they are.

If you like, you can add a boost of colour to make them more colourful. I just divided the pearls into different bowls (one for each colour) and poured some water and a few drops of food colouring in each bowl. I let them sit for 5-10 minutes to absorb the colour, then ran them under cold water again to rinse off the excess colouring.

I recommend adding a bit of water to the pearls during play to keep them moist and avoid the pearls from drying out and sticking to each other

I kept the pearls in a covered container in the fridge overnight and they were still good for another play the next day. I would say the max they would last is three days after which they would probably be too smooshy to handle.

>>More ideas for learning and play

 

Linking up to Jess’s for IBOT

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Boys’ dreams are made of stuff like this

Mega trucks.

Giant wheels.

Powerful engines.

Vroooooom…

Boys’ dreams are made of stuff like this!


Meeting Mack the Truck from Disney’s Cars in the City of Perth over the WA Day long weekend

 

tractorstrucksandlittleboys

 

Linking up to
Twinkle in the Eye and
Little Drummer Boys

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Independent Play: Managing Screen Time

{This is Part 3 of my series on Independent Play. If you’re jumping in for the first time on this series, you can read parts one and two here and here}

image

Technology.

We can’t seem to live without it these days. The world our kids are growing up in is so different from the one we grew up in back when we were kids.

I didn’t have my own mobile phone until I was twenty years old at university. Even then it was just a clunky old hand-me-down brick simply to make short phone calls with.

When I was growing up, we only had three channels on TV. Children’s programs only ran from 4.00-5.30 on weekdays and on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Nowadays we have dedicated children’s channels running cartoons and children’s shows all day long.

Gosh. I sound so old talking like that.

But my point is. Technology is not a necessity. It’s a wonderful convenience, yes. But it is possible to live without it or at least with less of it.

TV and devices themselves are not evil. But because they are so convenient, it can be easy to get careless and fall back on them too often as a distraction item or babysitting device.

In fact, over-reliance on screens and devices to entertain or distract children can do more harm than we realise. It actually robs children of their ability to play independently. If a child constantly needs TV and electronic games to while away their boredom, it can actually affect their ability to concentrate and focus on tasks and even chip away at their imagination and creativity.

Even if they are watching an educational programme or playing with an educational app on a device, let’s not kid ourselves, all that stuff is nowhere near where real learning should be happening. Real learning happens in the real world… with our hands, our feet, our senses, our conversations with real people, doing real things with actual physical objects.

But let’s get real… I myself personally don’t think I’ve managed to stick to all the recommended guidelines on banning TV for babies or limiting screen time to just 30 minutes a day. But I do try to remain as vigilant as I can about it, be intentional about the programmes we watch and guarding the amount of screen time for my kids.

So here are my personal tips on how I manage and guard screen time for my own kids…

Establish set times in daily routine for screen time
In my own daily routine, I selected two strategic times throughout the day for screen time to aid with transitions. Once in the morning after morning tea and one more time in the afternoon before nap time. The morning slot allows me a short break to regroup, clean up and get ready for the next activity. The afternoon slots helps the children to settle and wind down quietly before having their nap.

Whatever your situation is, think about your daily rhythm and routine and decide what works for you. Establishing some set screen times minimises the chances of falling back on the TV as a filler in the day.

Choose to watch programmes, not TV
What this means is that I select specific programmes for the kids to watch during the day instead of just turning the TV on to watch whatever is running. If there are a couple of programmes the kids really look forward to or want to watch, I try to work those times into my daily routine or record it ahead of time so they can watch it later during their screen time.

Choosing specific programmes helps you be selective about what your kids watch and establishes screen time as an intentional activity rather than just surfing around for random things to pass the time.

Try to watch it together with the kids or talk about it afterwards
Whenever possible, I try to sit down with my kids to watch the programme together so it can become a family activity and it shows them that I care about their interests. It also gives me the opportunity to get interactive during the programme together with the kids like singing and doing the actions of a song together or talk about what we see happening in a story.

Alternatively, I try to make it a point to talk about the programme afterwards or later on. This might also work for some situations with older kids who are past the age of singing and dancing to Playschool or The Wiggles.

Don’t download children’s apps or games on the phone
It’s definitely convenient to have some back-up apps on your phone or device to while away the boredom when waiting at the doctor’s clinic or the bank. But the truth is, once kids know it’s there they will constantly try to nag at you to play with your phone. So finally one day I decided to delete all the children’s apps and games on my phone. Instead, I try to have conversations with my son or read books together.

I do still pull out my phone sometimes, but when I do, we only use it to look through photos and talk about the people and events we see in the pictures together.

Set up some invitations to play or create
This definitely takes a little bit of planning and preparation, but it’s definitely worth it. And it doesn’t always have to be over the top. It can be as simple as putting out sheets of paper, crayons and markers for drawing and colouring, or some play dough, cookie cutters and cooking toys. When children see a little invitation like that before them, they will naturally gravitate toward it.

I’m also discovering the concept of “less is more”. So I’ve started storing away toys and rotating them every week. I found that having just a few toys out helps kids focus more instead of pulling everything out and getting bored with the ‘same old thing’. An old toy can become novel and fun all over again when it hasn’t been played with in a while.

Set up a reading corner for the kids
One of the best things I’ve done was to set up a little children’s reading corner in my home. All it took was just gathering all the books together in a nice little nook, throwing a comfy rug on the floor and some cushions to go with it. I was quite amazed by the results of this very simple project. My little ones naturally gravitated to that spot on their own at random times throughout the day to flip through a book on their own.

Another great tip I learnt from my Early Childhood Education course lecturer when she came to visit my home was to stand up a few books in the reading corner. This is a clever way to make the books stand out and invite the little ones to pick them up for a look.

DSC05520
Stand up a few books in a reading nook to invite kids to have a look

Thanks for following along on this series with me. I hope you found it helpful or managed to take away some useful tips to apply in your own situation. Happy playing!

>> Click here for the full series on Independent Play

 

P.S. Here are few related articles on screen time which are really are worth checking out…

 

Linking up to Jess’s IBOT party

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Like falling in love again

One wet morning last week, I was out in the backyard letting the kids have a quick romp before another rainy spell descended.

Grace was crawling happily about and reached out for a little purple blossom on one of my lavender bushes. I plucked a couple of flowers for her to hold and explore.

And I snapped this photo of her looking so gorgeous and pretty.

“Mmmmm… Lavender!”

Ever since she came, I can never get over how beautiful she is and marvelling over her features and all the little details of her face. It leaves me quite breathless sometimes.

It’s almost like falling in love all over again.

 

The Girl I Used to Be

She came tonight as I sat alone,
The girl I used to be,
She gazed at me with her earnest eye,
And questioned reproachfully:

"Have you forgotten the many plans
And hopes I had for you?
The great career, the splendid fame,
The wonderful things to do?

Where is the mansion of stately height
With all its gardens rare?
The silken robes I dreamed for you
And the jewels in your hair?"

As she spoke, I was very sad,
For I wanted her pleased with me,
This slender girl from the shadowy past,
The girl I used to be.

So, gently rising, I took her hand,
And guided her up the stairs,
Where peacefully sleeping, my babies lay,
Innocent, sweet, and fair.

I told her, "These are my only gems,
And precious they are to me;
The silken robes is my motherhood,
Of costly simplicity.

My mansion of stately height is love,
And the only career I know
Is serving each day, in these sheltered walls,
The dear ones who come and go."

And as I spoke to my shadowy guest,
She smiled, through her tears, at me.
I saw the woman that I am now and
Pleased the girl I used to be.

(Rowena K. Lewis)

 

Linking up to
Twinkle in the Eye and
Little Drummer Boys

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Talking about Santa Claus

[I’m taking a little break this week from my series on Independent Play. If you’re jumping in for the first time on this topic, you can read parts one and two here and here. In the meantime I wanted to share this very special moment I recently had with my little boy…]

Three-year old Nathan has always been captivated by the legend of Santa Claus and his yearly pilgrimage bringing toys to children at Christmas. It really surprised me because we have never done the Santa Claus thing in our family.

One of Nathan’s all time favourite stories is ‘The Night Before Christmas’. He had picked out the book himself one day when we were at the library. He asked to read it repeatedly over the entire period while we had the book on loan. Since then, one his favourite topics we talk about at bedtime is Santa Claus.

Recently one night as I was tucking Nathan in bed and settling down for our bedtime chat, this was the very original conversation we had about the jolly old man…

NathanAndSanta
One-year-old Nathan meeting Santa for the first time

Nathan: I want Santa Claus to come to my house!

Me: Oh, why do you want him to come to our house?

Nathan: Coz’ I want Santa Claus to bring me a soldier, like the king’s men in Humpty Dumpty.

Me: The one with the tall black hats?

Nathan: Yes. And he needs to have a sword.

Me: Right…

Nathan: And I want Santa Claus to bring me a long, looooong fire truck!

Me: Don’t you already have a fire truck from po-po and gung-gung? (grandma and grandpa)

Nathan: That one is small. It needs to be bigger, like this (stretches hands out end to end)

Me: That’s a very long fire truck.

Nathan: Aaaaaaand I want Santa Claus to bring me some money.

Me: Money? What do you want to do with the money?

Nathan: So I can give it to the aunty at the shops and for some sweets! (very clever)

Me: I see…

Nathan: Do you have some money now? In your purse?

Me: Eeerrrmmm... I will have to check.

Nathan: Maybe I will ask Santa Claus to bring some money for you, mummy.

Me: That would be good.

Nathan: And can Santa Claus bring some tickets to daddy so we can go on the airplane?

Me: The airplane? To go where?

Nathan: To po-po and gung-gung’s house. (my eyes started to get misty at this point)

Me: Maybe… we’ll see.

Nathan: Okaaaay… Goodnight mummy! Kiss! Hug! See you in the morning.

It’s almost impossible resist such pure hope, conviction and belief. I’ve always been on the fence about the whole Santa Claus business. But I can now understand why some parents choose to bring this legendary character to life. It’s the closest thing we adults might ever get to getting a glimpse into fairyland… even if it’s just only the very fringes of it.

 

"Know you what it is to be a child?
It is to believe in love, to believe in loveliness, to believe in belief;
It is to be so little that the elves can reach to whisper in your ear,
It is to turn pumpkins into coaches, and mice into horses,
lowness into loftiness, and nothing into everything,
for each child has its fairy godmother in its soul"
(Francis Thomson)

 

P.S. Made me think about this old post on fairies and babies.

 

Linking up to Jess for IBOT