Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Eat and play at Little Creatures

We enjoyed some beautiful weather in Perth over the weekend. I love this time of year when spring is just around the corner, the skies are bright and clear, the air is fresh and breezy and not too hot. Perfect weather for heading out as a family for some play time together.

So on Saturday afternoon, we headed down to Fremantle for an early dinner at Little Creatures Brewery. I had a craving for their crispy frites, washed down with a cold beer. And I knew we could relax and kick back while the kids had a play in the giant sandpit located in the restaurant.

Here are some photos I snapped while we were there…

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We ordered a couple of their woodfired pizzas --prosciutto & mozarella and my favourite harissa spiced lamb & feta. I sipped on a cold cider while hubby opted for a glass of their bright ale. We also had a bowl of their frites (just a fancy name for french fries) to share. Grace just couldn’t get enough of the frites.

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After dinner, we went for a walk along the jetty by the oceanfront. Nathan was absolutely fascinated by the boats and the fishes in the water. Hubs was preoccupied with making sure that Grace didn’t topple over the side of the jetty into the sea.

At the end of the evening, we were all tired but completely happy. It was just one of those perfect Saturday afternoons.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Sigh

The other day, my three-year old boy elbowed his cup of milk on the table.

It was a pretty full cup of milk, the contents now sprawled across the floor.

I pursed my lips. Then picked up a cloth and bent down to clean up the mess.

“Why did you go ‘haaaaaaaaaiiiiiiih…’ like that mum?”, said Nathan.

“Did I?”, said I.

“Yes you did, mum. You said ‘haaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiih…’ like that.”

“Oh. That was a sigh.”

“A sigh? Why sigh, mum? Why?”

“I don’t know, Nathan. Sometimes I just need to sigh”

“But why, mummy?”

Cue: *Sigh*

A couple of days later, it was Grace’s turn to knock something off her highchair. Something goopy and messy. Before I could say or do anything, it was my three year old who exclaimed,“Tsk. Haaaaiyaaaa… Grace!

The inflection and intonation he exuded into his exclamation was so comically real, I couldn’t help bursting out laughing out loud right there and then.

I recounted the incident to hubby later that evening while we were getting ready for bed…

“Well, it’s obvious where he picked that up from”, said hubby.

“Where?”

“You of course.”

“Me???”

“You do realise that you sigh a lot, don’t you?”

I never really realised it before. I’m not really a big yeller. So perhaps sighing is my way of keeping the yelling at bay. A way to release the pressure throughout the day to minimise the chances of having a big explosion.

It made me think of this episode from ‘Everybody Loves Raymond'…

Video source credit

Do you want to know why I sigh? It's like a pressure valve, a release.
Living with you, if I didn't sigh every once in a while, I would explode!

--Debra, ‘Everybody Loves Raymond”

 

How do you release your pressure valve throughout the day?

 

Linking up to Jess’s IBOT

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Yet another ‘write your own book’ activity

One rainy morning, we decided to do some painting. Nathan was on a roll, producing painting, after painting, after painting…

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After he had finished, we laid out his paintings across the floor to dry and sat back to admire his artwork. As Nathan talked about each painting, I started to see a common theme and pattern running through his pictures. I could see a story emerging.

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So, adapting the same concept from our ‘Write your own book’ activity we did a couple of weeks back, I jotted down Nathan’s narrations of each painting, arranged them and bound them together to make a book.

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This is Nathan’s favourite book he has written so far and often requests to read it together at bedtime. He has already asked if he could paint another story book. Well, it’s definitely a terrific way to fill up our little library.

P.S. More activities and play ideas.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The sleepy house

So our house has been affectionately nicknamed as ‘The Sleepy House’. I’m not entirely sure why, but there is something about our place that helps all the little ones sleep so well.

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Little Grace when she was three months old sleeping soundly

I used to think that I just happened to be blessed with kids who turned out to be really good sleepers and nappers. But now that I’ve started having more little ones around in my family day care --all who happen to sleep really well whenever they are at our house (at least two and sometimes even three hour-long naps). And their parents all insist that they never sleep this well at home.

Maybe it’s sleepy dust. Or something in our water. Whatever it is, it seems safe to say that it’s more than coincidence that sleep descends so well on everyone during naptime at our house.

So I thought I’d share a few personal tips from our Sleepy House…

#1. Burn off their energy
This is probably the most challenging part of the programme. I certainly don’t fancy a hoard of wild children descending upon my house and tearing everything apart. The key is about devising ways to channel their little energies constructively. It also takes some level of discipline to keep TV to a bare minimum, even if it often seems to be the more convenient option. At the end of it, you should be rewarded with a bunch of tired but happy little ones, eager for a good, solid nap.

#2. Fill up their tummies
I personally find it difficult to sleep soundly if my stomach is growling non-stop. So I think it would be the same for kids. This can be challenging for picky eaters, but as much as possible I try my best to make sure they have something in their tummies to see them through the afternoon until tea time.

#3. Have a regular wind down routine
This is something I never compromise on. Always without fail, after lunch and packing the toys away, we’ll read a story together before naptime. Young children are not able to tell time yet, so they rely on regular cues to guide them onto the next activity. Whether it is a familiar lullaby, a cup of warm milk or a cuddle, it always helps children to have a predictable cue for naptime.

#4. Work on quiet activities during nap time
As tempting as it can be sometimes to continue bustling around while the kids are sleeping, I also try to plan some downtime around the children’s naptime to keep the whole environment around the house quiet and chilled out. I bustle around a little bit to finish off some cleaning and packing up for the first 20-30 minutes or so, before settling down to do some quiet paperwork and admin while the kids sleep.

#5. Plan quiet activities for early wakers
I prepare some quiet activities like puzzles, books and colouring to occupy the early wakers. I believe in respecting rest time for everyone and not disturbing others just because you don’t feel like resting. I found that after enforcing this practice, the number of early wakings started to diminish. Possibly because the kids realised that waking up early doesn’t mean party time can resume immediately.

#6. Keep the room temperature cool (even in winter)
This would be my number one magic tip. Have you noticed how nice it feels to snuggle up under the covers in cold weather?  However I think many parents tend to turn up the heat in their little one’s rooms during winter to ensure they are warm and toasty. I believe this might actually be counterintuitive.  Studies have actually found that we sleep better in cooler temperatures. So just make sure your little one is sufficiently clad in warm and comfy pyjamas, and adjust the temperature in the room just enough to take the chill off (rather than simply heating the whole room up).

Conversely, in summer, many households might tend to turn up the air-conditioning to keep everyone cool. But keep in mind that there is an optimal temperature for sleep. If the temperature starts to drop below a certain point, it will likely cause us to wake up. So keep this in mind when setting your air-con temperature and try to allow some fresh air to circulate through the room as well.

 

Do you have any personal sleepy dust tips to share?

 

Linking up to Jess @IBOT

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Recent additions to our indoor loose parts play

Sharing a few bits and pieces I’ve made recently to add to our collection of loose parts for open ended play

 

Bean bags

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For stacking, throwing, tossing, and even balancing on our heads with…

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Mini cushions

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For counting, sorting, squishing, and even using as pretend food…

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[More of my sewing exploits]

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Getting to know you…

Because I don’t have a proper post prepared today (or possibly not for next week either). And also because I am presently focusing most of my writing energies on my Early Childhood Education course assignment (due this Saturday). So in the meantime, here is something light and fun for you to get to know a bit more about me…

Q&A: What’s your favourite…

What was your favourite food when you were a child?
Fried Bananas (a.k.a. Pisang Goreng). To be honest, I wouldn’t say this is my favourite food as a child. But it always evokes vivid childhood memories whenever I think of the smell and taste of piping hot, fragrant, crispy banana fritters.

What’s the #1 most played song?
Currently it’s ‘Let It Go’ from Disney’s Frozen. Only because my three year old asks to listen to it umpteen times each day. But apart from that, my favourite music artists include ABBA, Steven Curtis Chapman and Frank Sinatra.

What is one of your favourite quotes?
”Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
—Robert Frost

What’s your favourite indoor/outdoor activity?
Indoors – reading and sewing.
Outdoors – browsing around swap marts and flea markets.

What chore do you absolutely hate doing?
Gardening.

What is your favourite form of exercise?
I confess I’m not really an exercise person. But the two main exercise activities I do from time to time would be swimming and cycling.

What is your favourite time of day/day of the week/month of the year?
Favourite time of day – waking up in the wee hours of the early morning, looking at the time and discovering that I still have a good hour or two before I have to get up, then snuggling back under the covers contentedly.
Favourite day of the week – Saturday mornings… lazing around in bed, having pancakes for breakfast and spending some leisure time together as a family.
Favourite month of the year – December… Summer, Christmas, holidays, and my firstborn’s birthday.

What’s your least favourite mode of transportation?
Buses. Because they tend to be crowded, slow and bumpy.

What is your favourite body part?
My mouth. For talking and eating.

What sound do you love?
The sound of my children’s laughter and giggles as they play together. And also the sound of the garage door opening at the end of the day when my hubby arrives home from work each day.

My favourite sound: Laughter and giggles from these two

 

[Questions taken from 50 Questions to Get To Know Someone]

 

Linking up to Jess’s IBOT

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Geometric shapes collage activity

This is a simple but really engaging activity I did with my kids recently. It provided a lot of scope for learning opportunities and creativity but was also lots of fun. So I thought it would be worth sharing.

Materials/Supplies
Assortment of coloured paper
Plain white paper
Glue/paste
Scissors
Crayons/markers/pencils

Instructions/Preparation
Cut out geometric shapes of varying sizes from the coloured paper (squares, rectangles, triangles, circles etc.) and sort them into different containers. I chose to sort them by colour.

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Lay out the plain white paper together with the containers of coloured shapes and the other supplies (glue/paste, scissors, crayons/markers/pencils). Then just let the kids dive in.

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Allow the kids free hand to create anything they like out of the coloured shapes. I also cut out white circles and added a black dot in the middle for the children to use as eyes to add character to some of their creations.

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Encourage the children to use the scissors to customise the coloured paper to whatever other sizes and shapes they like. They can also use the crayons/markers/pencils to add further detail to their creations.

Talk about the children’s creations together with them afterwards. Point out the different shapes they have chosen to use in their creations.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Playing with real things

One of the interesting things about running a family day care is being able to observe the various children in my care and see the different ways they play and engage.

When I first started out, I always set out as many toys as I could fit into the play area. I thought that more toys would equal more engagement in play. I was so wrong. On the contrary, it resulted in chaos, mess and poor focus and engagement during play.

Since then, I’ve now scaled back the number of toys I put out in the play area and I rotate them regularly to spark new interests with the children’s play.

Here are a few things I’ve observed about the objects and toys that seem to captivate children the most…

#1. Children really LOVE boxes
Large, medium, small and even teeny tiny boxes. I always have a few large cardboard boxes that get turned into trucks, trains and tunnels. They also adore shoeboxes and teeny tiny boxes which they just love putting things into, taking them out and putting them in again and again and again.

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The Mothers’ Day chocolates that came in these boxes have long since disappeared…
but these boxes still remain and have spent many long hours in play

#2. Children frequently like to play with items that are not even ‘toys’ in the strict sense
I always keep a tub of odds and ends such as empty milk cartons, containers, boxes and other such ‘junk’. I often worry about not having enough fancy toys and equipment for the kids. But after many hours of observation, I notice that the ‘junk’ often seems to occupy the kids for much longer periods compared to many of the typical ‘standard’ toys.

#3. Children like exploring all sorts of thingamajigs and doohickies
I keep a box of random bits and bobs for this express purpose. The little ones just love pawing through the various items inside. Often they end up selecting a particular item as their chosen treasure of the day which they will hide in their pocket/bag/box and take it out again and again to look at throughout the course of the day.

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I always keep a hodge podge box of thingamajigs and doohickies
for the children to paw through and hunt for treasure

#4. Children love teeny tiny stuff
I don’t know exactly why, but children seem to gravitate to the teeny tiny books, the teeny tiny box or the teeny tiny soft toy. Perhaps it’s because it fits so perfectly in their teeny tiny hands. The only problem is that these teeny tiny stuff ends up being hidden away in all sorts of nooks and crannies around the house.

#5. Children seem to naturally gravitate to the shabby and scruffy cuddlies
Among the dolls and plush toys in our collection, we have nice, neat looking store-bought dolls and plushies, and also well-worn and homemade ones like these. Guess which ones gets played with more often?

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On the left: a nice, neat looking store-bought doll VERSUS on the right: shabby homemade dolls
Guess which one gets played with by the children more often?

I found this last fact a little puzzling at first. And then I remembered the well-loved classic tale of The Velveteen Rabbit. And it all made sense. Children want to play with REAL things.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

 

Have you ever wondered why babies seems so attracted to shoes, spoons, pegs, or even your phone? Because these objects are REAL stuff. Not just mere play things. And they know the difference between the plastic counterfeit ‘toy’ versus the real thing. You can’t pull the wool over their eyes. Kids are often smarter than we realise.

What quirky objects and thingamajigs do your little ones enjoy playing with around your house?

P.S. This is not a box.

Blogging with Jess @ IBOT