Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Poolzies pool shoes for children (product review)

With the summer season descending upon us here in the land down under, we’ve been looking forward to cooling off with lots of water play and swimming to cool ourselves off. So it was perfect timing when the lovely Pia of Poolzies contacted me to ask if I’d like to have little Grace try out their special anti-slip pool shoes.

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Poolzies is the brainchild of Steve and Pia, an expat couple based in Singapore. The idea for Poolzies first came about one day while on holiday when they were searching for a solution for their own child to be able to play safely and comfortably in a water park. Upon discovering that pool shoes were not easily available in Singapore and Asia, they decided to turn this idea into a unique business venture of their own.

The shoes are fitted with a Toughtek non-slip and abrasion-resistant sole, while the lightweight material is aimed at providing comfort and flexibility in movement. The fabric also provides UPF-50+ protection from the sun.

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We tried them out for the first time on one super hot day when we decided to head out to the water play area in our neighbourhood. This was Grace’s very first visit to the water play area, so she was looking a little apprehensive at first.

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After watching her brother happily running and skipping through the water jets for a few moments, she took a tentative step forward to join him.

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I was glad that the non-slip protection of the shoes allowed Grace to explore the water play area safely and securely with confidence. And I observed that she did not slip or fall at all during the entire time as she trotted around the water play area.

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*****

I’ve also let Grace the shoes out in our yard for general outdoor play. She usually prefers to walk around barefoot as she finds it easier to navigate the different surfaces and play equipment. However I often get nervous that she might step or slip on something sharp or abrasive as she runs about. The Poolzies shoes turned out to be a great solution for this situation as well.

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So these shoes are definitely very versatile for pretty much any kind of play environment. The flexibility of the shoe’s material allowed Grace to easily climb up the monkey bars in our yard.

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Grace usually insists on taking her shoes off when she wants to play on the monkey bars. But in this case, she didn’t mind having the Poolzies shoes on at all as she climbed and balanced on the bars.

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Overall, I definitely consider these pool shoes to be a product I would happily recommend to other parents. You can check out their prices and range of designs on the Poolzies website or connect with them on their Facebook page to learn more.

 

[This is a review post written for Poolzies pool shoes. I received this product in exchange for a review but did not receive any other compensation or payment. All opinions and thoughts in this review are my own]

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What do you really mean by ‘sharing’?

What do you think of the term ‘sharing’?

More specifically in relation to children ‘sharing’ things with one another.

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I personally think we adults use the term ‘sharing’ a little to flippantly. I have been guilty of it myself at one point or another, although I am practising to be more conscious about when and why I decide to use that term.

Sometimes I think parents use that term with children, simply to get a child to give up a toy or object to another child, without much regard for their rights and feelings.

Strictly speaking, if you were asking a child to ‘share’ something, it should either mean:

#1. Playing with the toy or object together, or collaborating in some way to use it jointly as a team;

OR

#2. Finding a way to divide the item(s) fairly so each person can have a share of it (such as with food or a pile of blocks).

However from personal experience, whenever I had a ‘sharing’ encounter with another parent, their desired outcome often had nothing to do with any of the above options.

Case in point #1…

A few months ago during a party at a friend’s house, I was sitting near the play area where the kids were, keeping an eye on little Grace. Nathan was fully occupied in exploring the various toys at our friend’s place. He found a toy mobile phone immediately started playing with it happily, pretending to talk on it, pressing the various buttons and so on. Another child saw the toy mobile phone Nathan was playing with, and started whining that she wanted it. She even tried several times to reach out and grab it from him. Nathan naturally held the toy phone protectively and moved away each time.

The other child started getting upset and continued whining for the toy. Her father who was sitting nearby observed how upset his child was getting. So he said, “Nathan, can you share the phone with Natasha*?”. Nathan looked at me uncertainly. I responded “Uncle X is wondering if Natasha* can have a turn with the phone, are you finished with it yet?”. Nathan shook his head and said no. “Okay, when you’re finished with it, can you let Natasha* have a turn”. Nathan responds“Okay mummy” and continued playing.

The little girl became more upset at not getting her way. Her dad tried to pacify her with other things but was unsuccessful. So he calls Nathan again and asks, “Nathan, can I have a look at the phone you are playing with?”. Nathan looked uncertainly again at me. I chose not to say anything at that point to see where this was heading. Nathan tentatively holds out the phone to the girl’s father, who takes it from Nathan, then immediately hands it to his daughter. Nathan became very distraught when he saw this.

I was quite taken aback when I saw this but continued to remain calm. “Oh, Nathan, were you not done playing with the phone? You can tell uncle ‘I’m not done with it yet'.” Then I turned to the father and said “Sometimes little children tend to give into adult authority even though they may not understand at first what is happening”. The father was mindful enough to quickly retrieve the phone from his daughter and give it back to Nathan (although his daughter was definitely not pleased about it).

Afterwards, I managed to find another toy phone which I gave to the little girl to play with. And later on when Nathan was done playing with the phone, I reminded him to pass it to the girl as well.

Case in point #2…

At another friend’s party some time back, Nathan was happily playing with various toys at our friend’s place. He found a toy wand and picked it up to play with it, pretending he was a magician, a soldier with a sword and so on. Another child then found another similar wand and began playing with it as well. A third child in the group who was a close friend of that child ran alongside them both, playing together.

The parent of the first child observed their child with the wand, but that the friend did not have a wand. They then saw Nathan playing with the other wand. So the parent asks Nathan, “Nathan, can you share the wand with A* and let A* play with it?”. Nathan paused uncertainly at this point. The parent then walks over to Nathan and repeats the request and holds their hand out for the wand.

So Nathan reluctantly lets go of the wand. The parent then gives the wand to the other child. The two children skip off together happily playing with the wands. Thankfully, Nathan was resilient enough to move on and look for another toy to play with. I was rather stunned with this episode but at that time, I wasn’t sure quite sure how I could have intervened without offending the parent.

(*Not the real names of these children)

Perhaps these incidents happened simply because Nathan and our family were not a core part of the groups we were hanging out with. Even so, I think that children deserve as much respect as adults and their rights should be treated with as equal importance as anyone else.

A person's a person, no matter how small  Dr. Seuss { via Yellow Pixel }
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If you ever found yourself in a situation where wanted a child to give up a toy they were playing with simply because you wanted your own child to have it --please think twice. I believe the simplest thing we can do is to try and imagine how it would feel if that child was our own. Here are some helpful phrases you can practice with your child if they are finding it challenging to wait to play with a toy.

I know this is the mama bear side of me coming through a little here. So I’ll round off things off with this uplifting quote…

The older you get,
the more you realise that
it isn’t about the material things,
or pride or ego.
It’s about our hearts
and who they beat for

- R.A.

 

A couple of articles to help further clarify the term ‘sharing’…

 

P.S. Then again, there is also another higher calling beyond this perspective. Please read this other perspective written by my dear friend.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Big Brother a.k.a. Superhero

Sometimes I envy this little girl of mine. Just a teeny weeny bit. Simply because she gets to be baby sister to this awesome big brother. They adore each other to bits, it’s hard to stand it sometimes because I feel I could just burst with such incredible joy every time I see them together.
 
Like this…
 
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Or this…
 

I am so glad they have each other. And that little Gracie has her own little knight in shining armour and superhero for life. It must be awesome to be a little sister to a big brother like this guy.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Quick and easy mini apple pies

We go through a LOT of food in our household every week. With four kids to care for five days a week, it can sometimes be challenging to come up with a variety of snacks and meals to keep them fuelled up for play all day long.

For morning and afternoon tea, I usually serve fruit or yoghurt and sometimes crackers with cheese. But each week I like to come up with a little special treat for the kids, just for a nice change from our usual tea time fare.

Here is one of my favourite tea time treats which I like to keep up my sleeve. It’s really quick and easy enough to even get the kids involved in the cooking process…

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Mini apple pies

Ingredients
2 tbsp sugar
1 tspn cinnamon
2 sheets shortcrust/pie pastry
3 tbsp melted butter
2 medium tart apples, each cut into 8 wedges

Directions
In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Unroll the pastry sheet, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture.

Cut each sheet into 8 one inch strips, about 8 in. long. Wrap one strip around each apple wedge, placing sugared side of pastry against apple.

Place on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake at 180°C for 13-15 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.

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I’ve used all sorts of apples for this recipe, including Sundowners, Pink Lady and even Fuji apples. The taste vary with each type of apple, but they all still taste good. I’ve also made this recipe using puff pastry sheets with great results as well.

>> Other favourite recipes I’ve shared here

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

DIY magnet shapes from old magnetic calendars

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A couple of weeks ago, I had posted this snapshot of these set of magnetic shapes I made on my Instagram.  I received a few curious questions on how I made them.

In a nutshell, they were made from recycling some old magnetic calendars and business cards --the kind you often receive from  real estate agents and local businesses promoting their services. So I thought I post up a simple tutorial for you to show you how I made them.

Materials
Magnetic calendars and business cards*
Modge podge or decoupage glue**
Coloured paper
Scissors
Brush or sponge

*If you do not have any magnetic calendars or business cards around, you can always buy magnetic paper sheets from office supplies or stationery shops

**If you do not have modge podge, you can try this alternative option made from PVA glue and water.

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Instructions
Firstly, plan out the various shapes you would like to have for your magnetic shapes. If you are happy with the existing shapes and sizes of some of the business card magnets, you have leave them as they are. For the larger calendars, you might want to trim them down or cut out various shapes from them.

Select your coloured paper and trim them down to fit the shapes of your magnets.

Apply a layer of modge podge on the non-magnetic surface of the magnet shapes using a brush or sponge. Stick on the coloured paper, and check to make sure there are no air-bubbles in between.

Then apply another coat of modge podge over the coloured paper and leave aside to dry.

After they have dried, trim off any excess coloured paper around the edges of the magnet shapes.

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These have been a popular addition to the magnet board in our play area. They get played with and rearranged at least once every single day. Even the little ones enjoy fiddling around with the shapes and exploring the effect of the magnets sticking onto the magnet board.

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P.S. Other play ideas we get up to around our place.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Mama Bear instinct

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If you know me, I’m a pretty easy going person with most things. And that goes with looking after kids as well. I generally don’t mind most of the little accidents and messes and mischievous things the kids get up to. I’m pretty good at staying calm, dealing with the situation and just getting on with what needs to be done.

But there is one thing I can’t stand, it’s deliberate mean-ness and unkindness against another.

Whether it’s yelling, hitting, kicking, pushing, snatching toys away. It’s all the same to me. Because it’s the intention behind the act that matters. And I will respond very swiftly* to any acts of violence or unkindness I see.

I am thankful that all the kids under my care have great parents who practice great values at home. And it is evident in the behaviour of their children. So most days pass quite pleasantly and peacefully, with the occasional flare up that naturally happens from rubbing shoulders with one another other and learning how to interact and socialise with each other.

We could stay at home all day if we’d like as there is always plenty to do. But I also like to let the children get out and stretch their legs and have a change in scenery every now and then. So we sometimes like to head out to the neighbourhood playground near our house.

Often, we will see other children and families hanging out at the playground. I know my kids enjoy the vibe and energy of having other kids around and sometimes even end up having great interaction with some of the other kids we meet there.

Sadly, there are also times when our encounters with other children turn out to be less than pleasant.

I have to confess that I am a bit of a mama bear when it comes to all the kids under my care.

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Like one morning last week for instance…

A little boy (about three or four years old) deliberately for some reason headed to the monkey bars where Grace was trying to climb, pushes past her and used his feet to kick backwards at her as he climbed up, causing her to fall down. My mama bear instinct was boiling hot mad when I saw what happened. It was all I could do to keep my instincts in check as I hurried over to rescue Grace from the situation.

I often see this particular boy at the playground with his grandparents. They are clearly migrants and do not speak a word of English. I give them a smile or nod whenever I see them, but can’t really communicate more to them beyond that. Every time this particular boy appears at the playground, he always creates havoc and is often even physical against other children. I can tell he is very spoilt and never pays heed to his grandparents’ nagging.

Although I do not understand exactly what his grandparents are saying, I can tell from the tone and body language that they are basically just nagging at him repeatedly to behave himself and not to do this or that. But not once have I ever seen them enforce any consequences on his behaviour. He just continues on playing even after he gets his way.

That morning, after the kicking episode against Grace, I managed to catch one of the phrases the grandmother said to the boy after he had kicked Grace, “blah, blah, blah…smack you!”. But I knew these were simply empty threats. I could tell she had no intention of carrying out her threat at all. The boy has likely never even been smacked or punished before in his life.

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What also irks me, are the type of parents that hang back on the benches, chatting to each other or looking at their phone, and not even bothering to keep their kids in check.

Now, I personally also believe in independent play, and children should be allowed to play freely and even learn how to work out conflicts among themselves at times. And I don’t mind if a parent is hanging out on the benches while their kids are playing. I would happily do that too, and the only reason why I am hovering over the kids is because I have a couple of kids under two, still practising their gross motor skills. But what I don’t appreciate is if their child is clearly causing potential harm against other children, and not doing anything about it.

There was one incident when we were at the playground, and there were a few older children playing with each other. They were playing a silly game of throwing handfuls of sand at each other.

I personally believe throwing sand at people is unacceptable behaviour. Sand is great fun to play with. But throwing sand at a person could risk the sand getting into the other person’s eyes, resulting in potentially serious eye damage.

So I did what any good mama bear would do. I told the children to stop throwing sand, especially with little ones around as it could get into their eyes and hurt them. The children nodded at me sheepishly and went on to play another game. All except one boy. He continued grabbing handfuls of sand and throwing it at his friends, trying to egg them on to resume the sand-throwing game. I decided to shut one eye since he was avoiding the younger children and playing at the other end of the playground.

Nathan, the socialiser, was trying to get in the group and join in their game. They were a little dismissive towards him, but let him tag along with whatever they were doing. Then, in the next split second, I saw the sand throwing boy, grab a handful of sand and throw it right over Nathan’s face. Totally crossed the line, mister!

Mama Bear Mode
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I led Nathan away from the scene, then walked over to the group of mums chatting to each other on the benches nearby and told them what happened.

“Oh! I’m sorry. His mum is not here. She’s just headed out to her car to get something”, one of the mums said to me nonchalantly.

“Well, what he did was totally uncalled for. Perhaps he should come and sit here for a while”, said I.

“Oh, sure. Alright.” said the mum.

She then asks one of the kids in the group to call the boy over. Then waited for me to leave. And after that they resumed their conversation amongst themselves.

I suspect that after I left, they would probably have a go at me as being one of those helicopter parents who are constantly hovering over their kids and making mountains out of molehills.

I know the world is a mean place. And kids will eventually have to face up to this unkind reality. But don’t you think the key pillars holding up our society is plain common decency. Basic principles like being civil and respecting others. If we don’t teach our children this, what kind of world are we creating for their future?

I believe one of the key ways to teach children such principles and values is to mean what you say. For example, if you tell your child not to do something, then let your ‘No’ mean ‘No’. If they choose to disregard your instructions, you should then enforce your ‘No’. Otherwise your ‘No’ means nothing.

Can’t play nicely with others? Then don’t play.

Can’t respect your toys by playing with them properly? Then don’t play with them at all.

Can’t follow the safety limits for participating in an activity? Then don’t participate.

The Blind Side [2009] - based on a true story watch this movie free here: http://realfreestreaming.com
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Are you a mama bear like me? Do other parents see you are the fierce, scary one at the playground?
Do you think I’m being very harsh? Or do you agree with being firm. Like any good mama bear would.

 

(*IMPORTANT NOTE: My general response to situations of deliberate acts of unkindness or physical violence would be to give a warning first. Then if the action is repeated, I will either remove the offender from the scene and/or remove the toy or object they using as a ‘weapon’ against the other child. I will inform the offender the reason that I am removing them is because they are not playing in a way that is safe for the other children. I am very cautious about crossing the line to emotional abuse. But I believe that if one person is wilfully and knowingly being unkind to another, they need to know they have crossed the line and that there are consequences for their behaviour. I always take the time to explain their error and support them in the process to make amends or retribution for their actions. I do not isolate a child randomly without cause or for unreasonable amounts of time. And I always ensure the place of retreat for the offender is nearby and within my line of sight, so I can keep an eye on them until I have settled the situation with the other children and am able to go to the offender to chat to them about what they did.)

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

DIY Rainbow coloured play muslins

One of the key things on my wish list of play resources for my family day care was a full set of coloured play silks.

They are essentially a fancy version of basic coloured scarves in the dress up box. But there was something nice about having a uniform set of bright solid coloured fabrics for the children to explore and play with.

I had shopped around online for various options, and also checked out the option of buying some plain white silk squares and dyeing them myself.

Then one day as I was clearing out Grace’s closet, I came across my stash of flat cotton muslins which I had used some time back on her when she was a little baby. The size was perfect was perfect for a lot of versatile play. The drape and flowiness was not quite the same as silk, but not too bad.

So after some research and chatting with a few DIY-savvy friends, I picked up three packs of Dylon fabric dye, one in each of the primary colours. And on one bright, sunny morning, I gave the muslins a good, thorough wash and got to work transforming the plain white squares of cotton into these rainbow hues…

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We’ve been having heaps of fun playing all sorts of games like peek-a-boo, Jack-in-the-box, dancing, dress-up play and superheroes with these play muslins. There is so much scope for imagination in them. I’m so pleased with these new additions in our play area.

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These play muslins would be a fairly simple and more economical option to play silks. And if you have been toying with the idea of buying or making your own play silks, this might a possible alternative to consider.

I don’t really have a step-by-step tutorial for these play muslins, but I thought I’d compile a few tips and pointers on how to get started:

  • You can find these muslin cotton squares in most baby sections of large departmental stores in Malaysia and Singapore. In Australia they might be known as Gerber or birdseye weave flat nappies. I’ve come across them before at a couple of baby specialty stores like Babyroad and Baby Bunting. But you can easily also find them online at very cheap prices.
  • Choose a fabric dye that is suitable for the type of fabric you are using. In the case of these muslin squares, cotton. I used Dylon and I believe Rit dyes would also work as well. I’ve seen some DIY play silks tutorials which use Kool-aid or food colouring, but I don’t think these options would be suitable for dyeing cotton fabrics.
  • Follow the instructions on the selected fabric dye closely, including weighing the fabric and using the correct proportions of water to the amount of dye.
  • FYI, here are the Dylon shades I used for my project: Tulip Red, Bahamas Blue, Sunflower Yellow. I got the green shade from mixing equal parts of Bahamas Blue and Sunflower Yellow together.
  • If you plan to use primary colours to mix and make other colours, mix the dye with the correct proportion of water first. Ensure everything is properly diluted, then measure out the appropriate proportions of each coloured water into a separate pot.
  • The amount of leftover coloured water after dyeing the fabric might tempt you to dump in other fabrics and materials to soak up the remaining dye. There is no harm in this, but bear in mind that the intensity of colour will vary using the leftover water. I did this with the leftover red water with a couple of extra muslins squares as I figured red would be a very popular colour. You can see that two of the reds in the pictures above look a little more faded and a little uneven in colour compared to the other two. I didn’t really mind as these were just extra muslins. But if you’re planning to throw in a shirt or something to use up the colour, just bear this in mind.

 

P.S. Previous additions to our collection of loose parts for imaginative and free play.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

My funny girl

So at just under 16 months old, our Grace is most definitely in the toddler stage. We still often fall back on calling her ‘baby’ out of habit. And being my second baby, I still see more of the baby in her. But her toddler side is emerging through very determinedly.

We’re having such a blast with her at this age. Her gross motor skills are advancing very rapidly, so she can poke her nose into everyone’s business all day long. Even though she is the littlest person in the house, she is most certainly not one to be ignored.

She is just the funniest little girl. Pretty much every single thing she does is so comical to watch. Even crying. Toddlers can be so dramatic, that you just can’t help laughing through all the drama.

Some of her funny quirks…

She is an expert mimic of almost everything her big brother does

--Such as plonking this ice-cream tub on her head (which Nathan uses as a builder’s hard hat when he’s pretending to be Bob the Builder). It’s too large for her, but she insists on keeping it on and walks around with it, even though she is as blind as a bat under it.

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--Or donning superhero capes. I’m pretty certain she has no idea what all these costumes and plays are really about. But she will NOT be left out of anything. Whatever the big kids are doing, she is more than capable of keeping up. And she proves herself almost every single time.

She loves bags. I don’t think it has anything to do with a girly-girl thing. Just putting her keen observation skills into practice. She must believe there is something very special about bags, sometimes even strapping on two or three at a time. Dear little Grace.

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Moving on to food. There is absolutely nothing lady-like about the way she eats. A chomper she has been, and a chomper she always will be. Whenever possible, she will overstuff her face with food and call out “More, more!!!” in muffled tones, with barely contained pieces of food falling out of her mouth.

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I have to admit that it’s a very funny sight to watch. Although it is not so funny cleaning up afterwards. Her highchair and the perimeter surrounding her always looks like a warzone after every meal. I won’t even mention the state of her face, hair and clothes.

Her current obsession are these toy mice. We got them for a dollar each at Ikea. She calls them “mao-” (missing the ‘S’ at the end of her pronunciation) and looks for them every morning.

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She carries them around everywhere she goes and is always misplacing them all over the place throughout the day. When she realises one of them is missing, she lets out a pathetic wail and calls out “Maaaaaooooooo…” in melodramatic tones. But she is very fortunate to have a big brother and many caring' ‘adopted’ older brothers and sisters around to help hunt around for her missing mice and bring them back to her.

I have to say that it’s very cute and funny to watch how attached she is to these little mice. But not so funny when she has misplaced them in the most obscure place where no one can find them.

That’s my gorgeous and funny little girl. Who drives me nuts every day, but never fails to make me laugh and smile over every little thing she does. Oh, my dear Grace, a part of me wishes you could stay as you are right now forever. But I know it’s only wishful thinking. So the only thing I can do now is to capture as much of your funny-ness and adorable-ness to remember for always.