Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A simple outdoor activity: Nature Bracelets

Nature bracelets made by the kids

One thing I try to do every day with the kids is to get them outdoors. Whether it’s just in our backyard or taking a walk around the block or heading to the nearby playground/park together.

Last week, I decided to vary our usual walk with a very simple activity to help the kids focus a little bit more on their surroundings during our stroll.

Nature Bracelets
(Adapted from Centre for Childhood Creativity)

Supplies: masking tape or duct tape.

Wrap the tape around the child’s wrist with the sticky side out to create a sticky wristband.

Then go for a walk outside and encourage children to look for various nature items to decorate their bracelets with – small leaves, flower petals, twigs or bits of wood.

Talk about the objects they discovered, encourage children to describe the details on their objects. You can also discuss why some items (or living creatures) might be appropriate or not appropriate to stick on their wristbands.

This simple activity is a wonderful way to encourage the kids to slow down and observe their surroundings and focus on objects in the environment.


End Note: The kids loved their sticky wristbands so much, when we got home they asked for another wristband to create bracelets from coloured paper, stickers and craft items. I’m sure there are heaps of other ways to extend this simple little activity.

You can follow me on Instagram @livingserenely for more snapshots on the daily activities I do with my kids.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Malaysian style sago pudding

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It all started when I had asked hubs to pick up a pack of tapioca ‘boba’ pearls from the oriental grocers for an edible water beads sensory activity I wanted to do with my kids. He came home with the wrong type of sago pearls which were the mini-sized ones.

He obligingly agreed to go back and look for the right type of tapioca pearls I wanted and I chucked the pack of mini tapioca pearls into my pantry and forgot about them for a while.

Then I stumbled across this recipe for a Malaysian style sago pudding which sounded so delicious I knew I had to try it out. It turned out tasting absolutely incredible and was so simple to make, I had to share it.

 

Malaysian Sago Pudding
(Adapted from Malaysia Kitchen)

Ingredients
4-5 cups water (approximately 1 litre)
1 cup sago or tapioca pearls*
1/4 tsp pandan paste OR pandan aroma paste, not pandan essence (optional)
90g palm sugar** shaved with a knife + 2 tbsp water
1 1/2 cups coconut milk***
Vegetable oil (for greasing moulds)

* Original recipe listed sago pearls, but I used tapioca pearls which are similar in texture
** Can be potentially substituted with brown sugar
*** I reduced quantity to 1 cup and found the amount to be sufficient, you can stick the original amount if you like your pudding to have plenty of warm coconut milk to swim around in

Method
Bring water to a boil, then pour in the sago pearls and cook for 8-10 minutes. The sago pearls are ready when they turn translucent (don’t be too concerned if you can still see the slightest dot of white at the centre of each pearl). Remove pot from heat and tip the contents into a sieve. Run the cooked sago pearls through cool water to remove residual starch then, using a metal spoon, fold the pandan paste through the mixture.

Grease moulds with vegetable oil. Divide sago into moulds. Cover with clingwrap and refrigerate. Meanwhile, in a small pot, bring coconut milk to boil. Cool to room temperature and transfer to a small jug. Using the same pot, unwashed, combine the palm sugar and water. Bring to a boil, transfer to a jug and set aside.

To serve, ease moulded sago into small bowls, pour in some coconut milk into each bowl and drizzle the palm sugar syrup over.


I used tapioca pearls instead of sago, which are similar in flavour and texture. The ones I had happened to be multi-coloured. But you can get plain white coloured ones which would absorb the green tinge of the pandan paste much better.

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Here is a snapshot of the pandan aroma paste I used. You only need a tiny smidgen of it in the recipe. I love the subtle flavour of the pandan in the recipe, but I think it’s possible to get away without it.

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Palm sugar or gula melaka is Malaysian sugar extracted from the sugar date palm. It has a beautiful caramel-like flavour. It is often sold in cylinder shaped cakes. To shave it, just run a knife against it in a downward motion.

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After the sago (or tapioca) pearls are cooked, they will take on a translucent colour with a tiny dot of colour at the centre. Run the pearls under cold water to stop the cooking process and remove the residual starch.

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The cooked sago pearls will have a slightly sticky texture which will make it easy to scoop up and drop into the moulds. I used a couple of ramekins for larger portions for hubby and me and tiny teacups to make smaller portions for the kiddies.

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While the sago pearl puddings are chilling in the fridge, make up the coconut milk and palm sugar syrup. I poured them into a couple of pretty jugs to serve together with the sago puddings.

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The texture of the tiny sago pearls in the pudding is really fascinating. And when paired with the coconut milk and palm sugar syrup, the flavour combination is just heavenly.

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P.S. If you enjoy the flavour combination of coconut and pandan, check out this very simple recipe for homemade kaya (a kind of Malaysian coconut ‘jam’)

 

Linking up to Jess’s IBOT

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Washi-fied

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So washi madness has struck our home. Ever since the acquisition of this collection of washi tape to my craft stash, I’ve been going mad over all sorts of ways to washi-tape stuff around the house.

So I thought I’d share some of the fun ways I’ve been putting my washi tape collection to use…

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Ice-cream stick ‘people’ dressed in washi-tape clothing
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Washi tape cards
binoculars
TP-roll binoculars (made by the kids) decorated with washi tape
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Washi-fied clothes pegs

 

P.S. If you’re into washi tape, I’ve recently started a new ‘washi fun’ board to my pinterest collection.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Writing about why I write

When the lovely Druimé from Snippets and Spirits asked me along to join in this blog hop series about why we write what we write, I was honoured and glad to jump on board.

This was definitely a challenging post to write as it required me to dig deep into my own aims and motivations on why I write and keep on writing.

There are five specific questions I had to answer for this series. So without further ceremony, I’ll just dive in…

Armed and ready with my trusty writing companion

#1. Why I write?
There are many interconnecting reasons for this. I suspect some of my friends think that this is simply a way to satisfy some inner narcissistic part of me.

Actually the reason I started blogging in the first place (nine years ago) was to keep friends and family living overseas updated on the everyday mundane things happening in my life. In the process, I discovered that I really enjoyed the process of journaling my thoughts and experiences.

Then ever since I became a parent, I realised that time had become even more precious and fleeting thing. I wanted to capture and record all the little moments with my family and kids and linger over them for as long as possible. Writing became a way to savour and squeeze out every single bit of beauty and loveliness of moments spent with my children down to the last drop…

“We write to taste life twice…”

#2. What am I working on?
I’m a big advocate of learning through play, so I’m constantly on the lookout for various fun play-based activities to do with my kids which I also share on my blog.

I have a couple of activities and play ideas parked in my drafts folder on my blog which I’ve been fiddling around with. You can sometimes catch a glimpse of some of these ideas on my instagram which I snap and share in further detail on my blog down the track.

#3. How does my writing differ from others in it’s genre?
I like to think that my blog has evolved from simply just a personal diary to a place buzzing with ideas and inspirations but still interspersed with personal anecdotes and memoirs.

Actually every blog is different and unique in it’s genre because everyone’s story is different and unique in itself. So my writing is about my own story and my own journey. I suppose the biggest turns in mine include discovering new passions like babywearing, sewing, cloth nappies, play-based learning and also recently stepping out to start my own family day care business.

#4. Why do I write what I do?
My mind is constantly buzzing and overflowing with ideas. Often the best way to grow and expand ideas is to share them with someone. Unfortunately I rarely have the opportunity to talk about my passions directly with people. I think I probably hold back from sharing with others because I worry about coming across as being too fanatical, overly zealous, a bit of a ‘know it all’ or coming on too strong on others.

So this corner has become my haven to share about my passions and ideas and to connect. To connect with myself. To connect my own thoughts. And of course, to connect with others --I’m truly thankful for the amazing connections I’ve had the opportunity to build through this blog and my writing.

#5. How does my writing process work?
Through this blog hop series, I learnt that many bloggers prefer to capture their ideas on paper or to jot their writings down in a notebook first. But my own process is actually almost completely paperless. My three main blogging equipment comprise of my camera, my phone and my laptop.

I use my camera (and also my phone) to snap photos throughout the day. These images often form the starting point for many of my ideas for blog posts and writing. If happen to stumble across or think of an idea for a post, I will either jot it down on my ‘To Do List’ app on my phone or put a placeholder title of the idea in my blog drafts.

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Then on Sunday afternoons, I nestle comfortably on the sofa with my laptop and a cup of tea for my private blogging time and launch my bloggy toolbox. I do my blog writing on Windows Live Writer and use Windows Photo Gallery to edit my photos and images.

I don’t actually have a pen and paper step to my writing process as I find that my words and ideas take form as I type them out on my laptop. I will re-read and edit the post again to get the words just right. I do fiddle around with the post a fair bit but as much as I try, I can’t help a few typos and errors slipping through. But there is only so much fiddling around one can do… eventually I just have to hit that ‘publish’ button.

 

As part of the series, I have the privilege of nominating two wonderful bloggers to share about their writing…

 

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The gorgeous Mandy of Make Me Up Mandy.

Her love for beautiful things is evident in the design of her blog and the beautiful images she shares.

I love the fact that she intersperses her beauty/make-up tips and reviews with real and personal reflections on her own journey through marriage, motherhood and life.

 

 

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The lovely Stephanie of Stephsjoy.

Stephanie enjoys writing about and sharing her key passions which revolve around family, food, photography, design and travel.

I love the fact that Stephanie shares honestly from the heart on her everyday life, her ups and downs on parenting and life.

 

 

Linking up to Jess @ IBOT

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Freezing the picture: Grace at one year old

Dearest GraceOne year ago, you were a tiny, velvety little bundle in my arms. And now a year later, here you are, a giggly, smiley, roly-poly little girl.

With all the bigger kids for company at our house these days, you are often the youngest one in the group. Everyone adores you to bits and calls you ‘Baby’. So much so, that I think you actually believe that is your name. But your size and age doesn’t really matter as you always insist on tagging along in all the bigger kids’ activities and are quite capable of holding up your own.

I know you are growing fast, but I still can’t help calling you my baby girl, to cling on to your baby-ness for as long as I can before it slips away. If I could, I wish I could preserve a little bit of your baby-ness and bottle it up to keep forever. If only I could. So as a consolation, here is my feeble attempt to freeze this picture of you now…

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Things you love

  • Walking – which officially commenced at 11 months old which was quite early compared to most children… you were definitely eager to get to places. Now you are trotting everywhere on two feet, thoroughly exploring every single nook and cranny you can find.
  • Books – you often trot over to our reading corner, and pull down every single book off the shelf before making your selection. At story time, you always eagerly trot over and wriggle your way right in front of all the other kids.
  • Playing chasey – especially with your big brother… all you need to hear are those magic words “I’m gonna getcha!” to set you off trotting and laughing excitedly away as quick as your little legs can carry you.
  • Getting stuck into whatever your big brother is doing – wherever he is, that’s where you need to be. When he moves to play something else, you’ll be following right behind him. I cannot get over how much you adore and look up to your big brother.
  • Food – you are pretty much game to try anything. It’s hard to find something you would not eat or try. You are also very adamant about holding your own food and feeding yourself (with your hands and fingers) which can be frustrating for us at times.

Words you can say

  • Mum-mum = eat/food/I’m hungry/feed me/I wanna eat that/I’m starving
  • Shish = Cheese
  • Na-na = Banana
  • Trrr-trrr or Prrr-prrr = Water
  • Tay-ten = Nathan (your big brother)
  • Pap = Up (which means ‘carry me’)
  • Pfffuh = Poo (which you will repeat while I’m cleaning your bum)
  • Papa = which your daddy insists that you are referring to him when you say this
  • Bah-bah = Bye-bye
  • Boh = Ball

Some of your cleverness

  • Waving and saying “bye-bye” to people
  • Trotting over to the meal table and calling out “mum-mum” whenever I announce that it’s time for breakfast/morning-tea/lunch/afternoon-tea/dinner
  • Trotting to the bathroom when your daddy announces that it’s bath time
  • Pushing and rolling Duplo trucks across the floor and attempting to place the little Duplo man into the driver’s seat of one of the Duplo trucks
  • Shaking music shakers or tambourines during music time and singing “Aaaaaaaahhhhhh” loudly whenever I say “Let’s sing LOUD” and stopping when I say “Now let’s be quiet, shhhhh…”

Favourite foods
This is a tricky one because you really love your food and will pretty much eat anything. But some notable favourites would include…

  • Fruits – All kinds of fruits. You especially enjoy bananas, grapes, mandarin oranges, strawberries, kiwi, cherries, plums, apples, mangoes. But I don’t think you’d ever refuse any kind of fruit actually.
  • Bread – Any sort of bread really. Plain toast, rolls, flat bread, chapati, paratha.
  • Cheese

Some of your funny quirks

  • You absolutely hate it whenever anyone tells you “No”… that’s all it takes for you launch into meltdown mode (but you cheer up pretty easily in the next minute)
  • You like to make funny “woh-woh-woh” sounds by tapping your hand over your mouth repeatedly (like the Red Indians do for their war whoop)
  • You love drinking water. At regular intervals throughout the way, you never fail to ask for “Trrr-trrr
    or “Prrr-prrr”. Sometimes you drink so much, I wonder if you would have any room left for food. But you always do.
  • You always insist on eating the same food as what the big kids and adults are having. Nothing escapes your keen eye. I often have to plan the timing of the food and courses I offer strategically when you are around if I want to avoid a scene.
  • You and your big brother have this special ‘thing’ between the two of you where you touch your forefingers together and go “Teeeeet!” which never fails to set you off laughing.

So this is you at one-year-old, dear Grace. Love you to bits, baby girl. I know it’s cliche, but I really and truly mean this when I say “You will always be my baby”.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Grace turns one

Last week, our dear little Grace turned one. She’s been growing so fast, sometimes it feels like she is already well past the one-year old mark.

At first when I first started thinking and planning what to do for her birthday celebrations several weeks ago, I thought we were going to throw the usual big one-year-old birthday bash with the whole shenanigan. I even made a start on the washi tape party invitations which I had pinned months ago.

But after an honest evaluation of the situation, I realised that all I really wanted was simply for our family to be together. I very much wanted to make a big fuss over the birthday girl and prepare up a really special celebratory meal for her, but not necessarily for ten to twenty other people.

So after much consideration, I decided to make Grace’s birthday party a really exclusive one, so I could dedicate all my energy into making it special just for her, instead of wearing myself out trying to impress a big crowd. After all, this is her very first birthday in this world, and I really wanted to BE there and enjoy wholeheartedly it with her.

And because of that, we were able to have not one but TWO little celebrations for her…

 

For celebration number one, we had it during the week with a couple of our regular little friends who attend our family day care. I made a rainbow pikelet ‘cake’ for morning tea for everyone to enjoy and celebrate together.

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This picture below is actually a really funny moment. I had sat Grace down on one of the regular kiddie chairs so she could be on the same level as everyone for the singing and candle blowing. As expected, she immediately reached out to try and touch her cake. So I instinctively pulled it away out of reach and she started bawling her head off (she can get a tad bit melodramatic at times). I quickly said to her big brother, “Nathan, quick, do something to make Grace laugh”. He then pulled his finger out and did their special ‘secret handshake’ thing which is to touch their forefingers together in E.T. style and go ‘teeeeeet!’ and I quickly snapped this picture. It turned out really funny because she was still in half-teary mode, adamantly trying hard not to laugh, but couldn’t help letting a chuckle out anyway. That’s why her expression here looks sort of half-teary, half-laughing. *LOL*. Sigh. Dear little Grace.

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Then over the weekend, we had an official family celebration together. I decided to prepare a traditional Chinese birthday meal for Grace which includes ‘Longevity Noodles’ and red eggs. The long strands of noodles signify long life, while eggs symbolise birth or a new start. The red colour of the eggs signify prosperity and good fortune in Chinese culture.

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They say when eating longevity noodles, one must not break them with chopsticks or bite them off with teeth, but instead try and keep the whole strand intact until inside the mouth before chewing on them. Definitely not an easy task.

Here is Grace, enjoying her taste of longevity noodles. The last picture is just a silly moment she was having with her daddy trying to feed her the noodles. A very apt glimpse into her cheeky personality.

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For the eggs,  I put a special twist on them by making them into ‘Surprise Jelly Eggs’. It took some work to collect the eggs over a couple of weeks. Instead of cracking eggs, I meticulously punctured a small opening on top with a chopstick, emptied out the egg, gave it a good rinse and set them aside to dry. Then when I was ready to prepare the jelly, I boiled the jelly mixture and used a syringe to insert the liquid into each egg shell.

Here is Grace, curiously exploring her surprise jelly egg… It was her first encounter and taste of jelly.

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And finally of course, what birthday celebration would be complete without cake, and the ceremonial singing, hip-hip-hooraying, and candle-blowing.

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So, Grace, even if your first birthday celebration was small and exclusive, it was no less special and definitely filled with plenty of love.

Happy birthday, dear Grace!

 

Linking up to Jess for IBOT

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Designing our own ‘lift the flap’ book

Last week, I shared about a ‘Write Your Own Book’ activity that I did with Nathan. Nathan enjoyed the activity so much so I decided to extend that idea with another similar activity, but this time take it up a level.

Designing our very own Lift The Flap’ Book!

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You can refer back to my post last week on how to assemble the little booklets. The only addition to this activity is to cut out smaller sized squares from coloured paper for the ‘flaps’ and glue or sticky tape to attach the ‘flaps’ on the pages of the book.

 

The pictures should be pretty self-explanatory…

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Here is a snapshot of Nathan’s finished masterpiece!

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Hope you’re having a lovely week everyone ^_^

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

A day in the life of a family day care educator

I think people often wonder what I do all day now that I’m at home for most of the week running my family day care. So I thought I’d share a bit of insight on my typical daily working routine…

6.45-7.15am Wake up, wash and get dressed for the day.

7.00-7.30am My own kids start waking up. Get them dressed and fed.

7.30-8.30am Day care kids start arriving. Free play (outdoor/indoor)

8.30-9.00am Mat time and story time. First round of nappy changes.

9.00-9.30am Morning tea.

9.30-10.00am Put babies down for morning nap. Older kids have some TV time.

10.00-10.30am Structured activity or learning experience for older kids.

10.30-11.30am Babies wake up from morning nap. Free play (outdoor/indoor).

11.30-12.15pm Second round of nappy changes. Lunch time.

12.15-12.30pm Pack up toys together. Older kids have some TV time to wind down.

12.30-1.00pm Story time. Get ready for afternoon nap/rest time.

1.00-1.30pm Wash dishes and clean up table, kitchen and play area. Prepare afternoon tea for kids.

1.30-2.00pm Eat my lunch.

2.00-3.00pm Work on documentation and admin stuff, record children’s learning observations, jot down notes in parent communication books, upload photos of children’s activities onto private Facebook page for parents.

3.00-3.30pm Some kids start waking up from nap. Story time or quiet activities (books, puzzles, colouring, drawing) to transition from nap to wake time.

3.30-4.00pm All kids usually up by this time. Third round of nappy changes. Afternoon tea.

4.00-5.00pm Free play (indoor/outdoor). Sometimes we might head to the nearby park together.

5.00-5.30pm Parents start arriving for pick-up. Pack bags. Chat to parents about their child’s day.

5.30-6.15pm Clean up and prepare dinner for my own family.

6.15-6.45pm Family dinner time.

6.45-7.00pm Kids bath time and get ready for bed.

7.00-7.15pm Nurse baby Grace and put her down to sleep.

7.15-7.45pm Nathan usually has a little bit of TV time before bed.

7.45-8.00pm Bedtime story for Nathan and kiss goodnight.

8.00-9.00pm Laundry or preparations for meal or activities for the next day

9.00pm onwards I have a little wind down time with some blogging, reading, watching a little telly before starting work on my Early Childhood Education assignments and outstanding paperwork for my Family Day Care. I try to hit the sack by 11.00pm but often don’t get to sleep until around midnight or 1.00am.

 

And that’s a glimpse into my typical day in my family day care! Hope you found this interesting and insightful.

This is an exciting new venture I am embarking on to set up my own family day care. Throughout this journey, I will be sharing about this project, the application process, what I’ll be learning from the training courses, my home set up, craft and activity ideas and other related bits and pieces. Through this, I hope to support and connect with other fellow day care educators and also perhaps provide a little more awareness and insight for parents (and parents-to-be) on the set up and running of a family day care. You can follow along my updates on my blog under the family day care tag.

 

Linking up to IBOT

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Two beautiful additions to our library

Just sharing a couple of lovely items that arrived in the post last week…

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These photobooks were created and printed through Photobox which I had won courtesy of a giveaway hosted by Eva at The Multitasking Mummy (thanks, Eva!). It actually took quite a long time to put together as it was a massive project to compile all my digital photos scattered everywhere and arrange them into beautiful and meaningful collages (especially due to the perfectionist streak in me).

Thanks to the generosity of the people at Photobox, I was able to put together not just one, but two photobooks...

The first one is a compilation of photos of our family and extended family members which I arranged it into a story book format and titled it ‘Our Family’. It’s been lovely to be able to sit down with Nathan and Grace and pore through photos of grandma, grandpa, and all their uncles and aunties who live far away and talk about them together.

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The second one is actually a children’s book written by my dear friend, Irene. Her book, ‘God Counts’, is available to download for free in PDF format here, where she also shares the story of how she came to write the book. Initially I had planned to print it out and bind myself at Officeworks or a print shop. But then I had a sudden idea to use some of my Photobox credits to turn it into high quality physical book.

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We are so loving these new additions to our little library!

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

“Write your own book” activity for children

A few weeks back,  I wrote about my son the doodler. Since then, his drawings have been evolving and getting more and more varied and sophisticated. He has been using up sheets and sheets of paper (and a few walls) at a rapid pace, faster than I could keep up with.

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Then I stumbled across this awesome idea from Katie at A Little Pinch of Perfect to get the kids to write a story book. It was the perfect way to build on his interest in drawing and doodling. So one afternoon, I suggested to Nathan that we write a story for daddy. He jumped at the idea right away.

Here’s an outline of how we did this activity…

Materials
1 sheet of coloured A4 paper
2-3 sheets of plain white A4 paper
Pens, pencils, markers/textas for drawing

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Assembling the booklets
Stack the sheets of the white A4 paper together with the sheet of coloured paper on top. Fold it in half, and staple the edges together to form a little booklet.

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[I’ve actually made several ‘doodle books’ using this method for Nathan to draw and scribble in. I date each booklet (just a simple note on the month and year) as they get used up - I think would be interesting to look back on them down the track and see how his doodles and drawings have evolved and developed].

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The writing and illustrating process
After the booklet was put together, Nathan got to work on the illustrations on his own.

I didn’t try to offer too much prompting but just let him have free reign with his ideas and imagination. The only thing I did during the illustration process was to ask if he had finished drawing on a page before prompting “Okay, let’s turn the page to draw the next picture”.

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After he had finished drawing on each page, we went through the book together and Nathan explained what each drawing was about. I then wrote down his narration and description on each page.

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Finally we recorded the title and author of the story on the front cover. I also noted down the date down at the bottom corner for remembrance.

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Some tips on the story writing activity…

  • Try not to offer too many instructions while your child is drawing and illustrating the story but allow them as much creative freedom as possible.
  • The story might end up somewhat disjointed (especially with younger children) but I think that’s okay. My son didn’t mind at all and absolutely loved his story.
  • Don’t feel compelled to extract out a full narration of each drawing from your child. Even a simple labelling of each object drawn is terrific.
  • For younger children, start with just a very small number of pages to begin with. I started with three sheets of A4 but then reduced it to two which was more than enough to make a 5-8 page book (depending on whether your child draws on both sides of each page).
  • Read the story together with your child afterwards. They will definitely feel proud of their work. I also placed their book on the bookshelf along with all the other books so they know for certain that their book is a full-fledged book.

 

P.S. Check out our variation of this activity: designing our own ‘lift the flap’ book.

 

Linking up to Jess for IBOT