Wednesday, February 24, 2016

What we’ve been up to at our family day care this month

One of the things I mentioned in my new year post was to try and share more of the play and learning activities we do at our family day care. So to kick things off in this department, here is a little roundup post of some of the activity highlights we got up to this past month…


Chinese New Year

Over Chinese New Year, I put together a Chinese New Year sensory bin based the colour theme of red, yellow and gold. I filled the box with various sensory items like pom-poms, bean bags, golden beads, red packets and tangerines. I also used the red packets for a simple puzzle craft activity. I cut the red packets into sections for the children to assemble into a Chinese New Year theme paper collage.

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*Chinese New Year sensory play inspiration from Things to Share & Remember

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Where is the Green Sheep

Extending on a couple of the children’s interests in the story book ‘Where is the Green Sheep’ by Mem Fox, I made this coloured sheep felt play set for our felt board. We used them to play a ‘Find The Green Sheep’ game, colour matching games and sing sheep nursery rhymes using the coloured sheep with some of our other felt board characters.

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We made our own green sheep by winding green yarn around some cardboard, drawing on some features and adding a couple of mini pegs for legs. This craft activity allowed the children to practice their hand-arm coordination as they wound the yard round and round the cardboard.

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*’Where is the Green Sheep’ activities inspiration from One Little Librarian and Seagulls & Sandcastles

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Hairdresser Shop

One the favourite books we’ve been reading recently is ‘Busy Hairdresser’ by Rebecca Finn. Plus one of my little girls happened to visit the hairdresser to get a haircut. So we decided to set up our own pretend hairdresser shop, complete with capes, towels, washcloths, combs, brushes, play scissors and washi-fied pegs for hairclips.

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As you can see, all the children really got into the whole imaginative play and enjoyed taking turns to be the hairdresser and the customer having their hair done.

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*Hairdresser shop constructed using jumbo-sized building blocks which we bought at Big W

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Jelly Dough

A new sensory material we tried out was this jelly dough made with Metamucil, water and food colouring. The children enjoyed exploring the slimy, jelly-like texture of the ‘dough’. We combined it with some water play and the children came up with lots of interesting concoctions by mixing the jelly dough and water together.

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*Jelly dough based on this one-ingredient-slime recipe from Kids Play Box


>> More learning and play ideas here

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Still mine

Just giving a bit of airtime to my favourite little boy in the world. He happens to dressed up here as a pirate for a friend’s Tinkerbell theme birthday party he was attending. What do you think?

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Actually the truth is, this is also meant to be a bit of airtime for the pirate costume I put together on my own—haha! It’s a big step up from the previous pirate set I made two years ago. Nathan was very patient and obliging while I directed him in various poses for this mini photoshoot. But after the sixth or seventh one, he finally told me, “Okay, that’s enough, mummy”. “Wait, just one more, last one!” I protest. “Sigh. Ooookaaay, just this LAST one, mummy”. LOL. Oh dear. What a boy. What a mother!

Dear Nathan growing to be such a terrific little chap. He has such an incredibly kind heart and an inquisitive mind. Lego is still his number one top favourite interest. Almost every day he comes up with the most original and clever creations of his own. He always looks forward to the monthly Lego club session at the local library.

Apart from Lego, these days he’s also very much into reading books about facts and information. That’s the big boy in him I am gradually seeing emerging. Last year every week on library day at school, he’ll come back with a book for me to read to him. I can usually count on it being some funny or whimsical story about dragons or knights or a funny animal character. But this year, I’ve observed a big shift in his choice of books. Last week we’ve been reading about the different species octopuses and squid, this week is a book about dinosaurs, and earlier on it was a book about the history of knights and castles. And of course he always immediately grabs hold of whatever Lego books he can get his hands on at the local library.

At five years old, he is still very happy playing with the two- and three-year-old buddies that come to our house daily. So there’s still lots of giggly chasey games, dress ups, pretend tea parties and dragon hunts. But every now and again, I might see him retreating away to read a book on his own. Sometimes he might say to me quietly, “Okay, that’s enough now…. mummy, can I go the other room and play with my Lego by myself?”. “Sure, of course you can, dear”. I tell the little ones that kor-kor needs some alone time now. Then I glance up at that five-year-old in the other room out of the corner of my eye, his face deeply focused in a Lego construction or flipping through a ‘Lego ideas’ book at the table.

Those are just tiny, fleeting glimpses of the big-boyness slowly emerging. But at five, he is still very much all mine. I can still hold him, cuddle him, sniff him, nuzzle him, hug him, kiss him. He still is a big fan of my hugs and kisses. Hugs and kisses goodnight. Hugs and kisses good-bye at school drop-offs. Hugs and kisses after school. Hugs and kisses for no apparent reason. He still wants holds my hand when we cross the road. He sometimes still asks me to carry him in my arms. This will end some day. I know.

For now, I just felt I needed to remember my five-year-old just as he is right now. And simply freeze the picture here. Just for a little bit.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A post dedicated to Teddy

“Gracie had a teddy bear,
Her fur was chocolate brown,
And everywhere that Gracie went,
The bear was sure to go.”

What is the magic that turns the floppiest little bear into a very real, loyal and trusted companion?

"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."

― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

*****

Meet Teddy.

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She belongs to this little girl.

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Some facts we know about Teddy so far…

Teddy is a girl. So says her owner and best pal, Gracie.

She likes to drink tea. Pretend tea.

She enjoys reading books.

She likes to watch ‘Playschool’. And ‘Frozen’. And ‘Tinkerbell’. Well, pretty much whatever her pal Gracie likes, she likes too.

She likes to go to sleep. Only at the same time as her pal, Gracie.

And she likes waking up. Next to Gracie. Of course.

She misses her Gracie very much whenever she goes out. But waits patiently for her return every single time.

She doesn’t mind being tossed into the air and caughtor sometimes not. (Although this game is always strongly discouraged for poor Teddy’s sake).

She doesn’t mind being stuffed in a bag and swung about.

She doesn’t mind having her nose, ears, paws or any part of her body chomped by itchy toddler teeth.

And she doesn’t mind being used as a handkerchiefwhich sometimes happens when her Gracie gets really sad or upset. Teddy will retreat into a corner with dear little Gracie and soak up each tear and just listen quietly to Gracie pour out all her troubles.

Thankfully, Teddy doesn’t mind being tossed into the washing machine every now and then and hung up to dry in the sun by her ears.

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"There are few sadder sights than a wet bear hanging from a clothesline by its ears.
It says a lot for them that they never complain."

―Pam Brown

*****

One day Gracie’s mummy saw little Gracie, rubbing her face all over teddy and sniffing her to bits.
“I love to smell Teddy!” said Gracie to her mummy.
“Do you? What does Teddy smell like?” asked mummy.
“She smells like Gracie!”

Teddy is always happy to play along with anything Gracie proposes. Whether it’s being a guest at a tea party. Or having her nappy changed. Or having her furry ears trimmed at the hairdresser’s.

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"In a world where everyone seems to be larger and louder than yourself,
it is very comforting to have a small, quiet companion."

― Peter Gray

Monday, February 15, 2016

My one-of-a-kind girl

I make it no secret that I love boys. I love having a little superhero, prince charming, knight in shining armour, pirate, policeman and fireman around. Plus it’s good to have someone you can call on whenever we’re hit with a big dragon or monster infestation at our place.

But make no mistake. I’m a big advocate for girls as well.

Especially one-of-a-kind girls like this one.

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When Grace was born, I resolved not to fall into the usual girly-girl practices. I avoided surrounding Grace with pink and frills. I encouraged her to play with trucks and trains and Lego. I let her dress up in superhero capes. I consciously avoided always letting her have the pink bowl or pink cup.

Despite all my efforts, I cannot deny that I am still a mummy to a little girl.

And little girls are meant to be dressed in floral, frilly things.

GraceReversibleSkirt{ A floral reversible skirt custom-made especially for my little girl }

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A couple of weeks ago, Nathan was enjoying his afternoon tea in his usual leisurely manner. Grace had already chomped her snack down and headed off to play. Nathan was taking his time to slowly nibble and savour a crispy rice cracker spread with cream cheese. Grace wandered over and noticed Nathan munching happily away at his cracker. She immediately demanded one. I told her she already finished hers and that she told me earlier that she was done. So she did what any good chomper would do. She leaned forward and took a big chomp straight off Nathan’s cracker while it was still in his mouth. Which of course did not go down well with her big brother at all. It was all I could do to keep my face straight as I firmly told her that we do not chomp on other people’s food. Especially not while it was still in their mouth.

Then last Wednesday, as my two kiddos were contemplating what movie or programme to watch as part of their post-bath-pre-bedtime routine. Grace suddenly piped up and said she wanted to watch ‘Tinkerbell’. Nathan as usual wanted to watch his current favourite ‘How to train your dragon’ movie. He has been watching it for the past two weeks almost every evening which Grace had been willing and cheerfully watching along with him all this while. So I suggested that since Nathan has been choosing to watch his favourite show for the past fourteen evenings that maybe Grace should have a turn. Nathan of course protested this suggestion. So I said the two of them would have to work it out between themselves. And so the ‘Tinkerbell’ vs. ‘How to train your dragon’ argument ensued.

Nathan: I want to watch ‘How to train your dragon’!
Grace: No, I want watch Tinkerbell!
Nathan: No! ‘How to train your dragon’!
Grace: ‘Tinkerbell’!
Nathan: ‘HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON’!
Grace: ‘TINKERBEEEEEELLLLLLL’!
Nathan: Grace, if you will not let me watch my show, I will not play with you anymore!
Grace: (*Screeching*)Aaaaarrrgghhhh!!!
Nathan: RAAARW!!!!
Grace: ROOOOOAAAAAH!!!!

Nathan, unable to contain himself any longer, burst into tears. Grace quietly watched her big brother sobbing for a few minutes. Then she changed her tone completely and very gently said to Nathan, “Kor-kor, you want watch dragon, okay?”. In the end, I got Nathan to work out a deal with Grace promising to let her watch ‘Tinkerbell’ tomorrow. They had a good, chummy time as usual afterwards snuggling down to watch ‘How to train your dragon’ for the hundreth time together. The truth is (as you can probably guess), Grace doesn’t really mind what show they’re watching as long as she cuddling up to her favourite boy in the whole wide world.

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Another great thing about having a little girl: Going out in matchy-matchy outfits together. Just because we are girls. There’s a girly-girl inside all us girls. So why fight it? In any case, it’s not pink.

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I shall end this post with this black-and-white back shot of Grace and I. Because it looks artistic and because I like it and because I simply want to use this space to show our matchy-matchy outfits just a tad bit more.

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#anotherreasontohavegirls

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Grapes sensory activity

What do you do when you have an overabundant harvest of grapes in your garden?

Despite my very apparent and sad neglect of our grapevine, year after year, it remains faithful.

Even after eating our abundant fair share, giving them away and letting many, many of them shrivel up or fall to the ground, there were still heaps and heaps of heavy bunches of these dark purple grapes left on our vine.

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Earlier this week while I was working, one of my little girls noticed a generously sized bunch of grapes, hanging very low close to the ground, peeking out from under the leaves. She enquired about it and asked if she could try them. I generally do not offer these grapes to the kids on a regular basis as these grapes happen to have pips in them. So I warned her about the pips, but she was still keen to try them. So I said okay, as long as she was careful about the pips.

Without missing a beat, she plucked one off, popped them into her mouth, spat out the pip and ate it up. Then she turned to me and asked for more. So I plucked a small bunch for her, gave it a wash at the tap and handed it to her. She skipped off happily clutching her bunch of grapes, popping them into her mouth at intervals.

As expected, the rest of the gang, seeing their friend with the grapes came up to me clamouring for their share. I plucked a small bunch of each of them, washed them and they scurried off happily to eat their grapes. I watched them all like a hawk for any inkling of trouble with the pips. But they all instinctively seem to know how to handle the pips like pros.

And then they came back to me for more.

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In a moment of inpiration, I decided to turn this into an impromptu sensory activity. I rounded up all the kids to help gather bunches and bunches of grapes in buckets and baskets. We carried them over to the activity table. I set out several tubs of water and let the children just have free reign with the grapes and water.

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They swirled the grapes around in the water, plucked them off the stems, scooping and gathering them into various cups and containers. They pretended to cook 'grape soup', 'grape pies', 'grape cakes'. And along the way, popped a few in their mouths as they played.

(It reminded me a little of the way they played with the edible water beads activity I had set up previously).

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I gathered all the grapes leftover from the sensory play that were not crushed and squashed. The children helped me to pluck the remaining ones off the stems and we gave them a good wash. I decided to make some grape jam. The children were super excited about it. "We can make grape jam ice cream!" one of the girls suggested excitedly.

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After blending the grapes and sieving out the pulp, I let the children all have a try of the fresh grape juice. "Yummy!" they all grinned as they sipped the juice. We poured the juice into a large pot and I added some sugar and placed it on the stove to simmer away

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Freshly made grape jam to spread on our toast for afternoon tea. Plus a bit extra for each child to take home to share with their families. The perfect way to round off a very ‘grapey’ day.

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>> More learning and play ideas here

Monday, February 01, 2016

Two favourite simple supper dishes

So today marks the first day of the new school year for us folks in Western Australia. Nathan seemed to ease back into the whole school routine pretty easily without any drama or fuss.

I think the person who is stressing out the most about the whole thing is me.

Apart from the usual emotional hoo-haa over his first day… (side question: Is it really true that every single kindy child gets completely reshuffled into a new pre-primary class? Why does it seem like Nathan is the only child from his previous kindy class that’s been reshuffled into this particular pre-primary class?)… there’s also a new daily drill of lunch and recess food prep. Oh my goodness. What on earth do you pack in a kid’s lunchbox every day for five days straight?

I also prepare morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea everyday for all my family day care kids. It’s not easy juggling four individual food preferences and quirks, whilst maintaining a good balance of health, nutrition and variety.

By dinnertime, I’m barely making it to the last leg of kitchen duty. Sometimes I don’t even have any appetite left to eat anything myself after all that cooking and food prep.

On days like that, I usually wind up having a late supper on my own. Something calming, soothing and somewhat cleansing to melt away all the build up of toxins and stress.

Here are two current favourite supper dishes which are really simple to prepare but will knock your socks off—in very serene, rejuvenating way of course.

 

Silken tofu with spring onions and shallots

Ingredients
300g pack of silken tofu
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fried shallots
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Preparation
Remove packaging from tofu, drain liquid and tip it out onto a microwave safe dish. Heat in microwave for about 45-60 seconds until warmed through.  Drizzle over soy sauce and sesame oil. Top with spring onions and fried shallots. Serve immediately.

I enjoy slurping up this dish with some cold soba noodles, or just on it’s own like this. Clean and simple.

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Papaya with Raspberries
(Adapted from Nigella Lawson)

Ingredients
1/2 papaya, seeds removed
125 punnet fresh raspberries
1/2 lime

Preparation
Place papaya on  dish. Fill cavity of papaya with raspberries. Squeeze lime over fruit. Serve immediately.

This dish feels so indulgent in a completely guilt-free way. I always feel so cleansed and detoxified after eating this.

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>> More of my favourite recipes and cooking escapades here